Investigation and pending anti-trust class action lawsuit against three egg trade groups and thirteen of the country's largest egg producers, alleging that these entities unlawfully conspired to fix the prices of shell eggs and egg products in violation of antitrust laws.
The class action lawsuit was filed in United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against United Egg Producers, Inc. ("UEP"); United Egg Association ("UEA"); United States Egg Marketers, Inc. ("USEM"); Cal-Maine Foods, Inc.; Hillandale Farms of PA., Inc.; Daybreak Foods, Inc.; Golden Oval Eggs, LLC; Michael Foods, Inc.; Michael Foods Egg Products Co.; Midwest Poultry Services, L.P; Moark LLC; Norco Ranch, Inc.; National Food; NuCal Foods, Inc.; Rose Acre Farms, Inc.; and Pilgrim's Pride Corp.
The 71-page class action complaint alleges that the defendants have engaged in an unlawful scheme to artificially fix and inflate prices through restricting the supply of eggs. The cartel's horizontal agreement to reduce output has dramatically increased costs for purchasers of shell eggs and egg products and driven prices to historic highs throughout 2007 and 2008. Meanwhile, during this same time period, the main perpetrators of the scheme have enjoyed record profits. The class action lawsuit alleges that the conspiracy has been undertaken primarily through a near industry-wide agreement to reduce the number of laying hens (and thus, eggs) at various egg farms. A key component of this program was to marginally increase cage space for laying hens under the auspices of animal husbandry. However, as detailed in numerous internal industry documents, the true goal of the program was to act as a "roadmap" for an illegal supply restriction scheme. As fewer hens were kept per cage, UEP and its members agreed not to replace the lost chickens by adding more cages or increasing capacity. As a result, egg supplies began to drop and prices soared in 2007 to the present.
Furthermore, cartel members agreed to manipulate molting practices and to cull chickens sooner (but not replace them) once their egg production had started to decline.
The conspirators also implemented several below-cost export schemes to deflate supply and raise domestic prices.
The lawsuit is based on a six month investigation of internal newsletters, documents, and industry statements - many of which have never been released to the public. It also follows recent pronouncements that the U.S. Department of Justice has been investigating price collusion by at least three of the defendants in the lawsuit: Michael Foods Inc.; Golden Oval Eggs LLC; and Moark LLC. All three companies issued statements indicating that they are cooperating with federal authorities.
Name (Stock Symbol)
United Egg Producers, Inc.
United Egg Producers, Inc., also referred to as United Egg Association, is a collection of egg producers.
MoArk LLC produces and processes eggs. It is owned by Land O Lakes.
United Egg Association
United Egg Association is an association of egg producers.
Cal-Maine Foods, Inc. (CALM)
Cal-Maine Foods, Inc. is primarily engaged in the production, grading, packing and sale of fresh shell egg.
Hillandale Farms of PA., Inc.
Hillandale Farms of PA., Inc. is a large egg producer.
Daybreak Foods, Inc.
Golden Oval Eggs, LLC
Golden Oval Eggs, LLC, is a liquid egg producer and further processed egg products. Rembrandt Enterprises, Inc. has acquired Golden Oval Eggs, LLC.
Michael Foods, Inc.
Michael Foods, Inc. is a food processor and distributor with business in egg products, refrigerated grocery and potato products.
Michael Foods Egg Products Co.
Michael Foods Egg Products Co., a subsidiary of Michael Foods, Inc., is a food processor and distributor of egg products.
Midwest Poultry Services, L.P
Midwest Poultry Services, L.P. produces and processes chicken eggs.
Norco Ranch, Inc.
Norco Ranch, Inc. processes eggs.
National Foods Limited
National Foods Limited is an Australian food and beverage company, with core activities in milk, fresh dairy foods, juice, soy beverages and specialty cheese. The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Kirin Holdings (Australia) Pty Ltd.
NuCal Foods, Inc.
NuCal Foods, Inc. distributes eggs.
Rose Acre Farms, Inc.
Rose Acre Farms, Inc. produces and processes eggs.
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