U.S. Senator Warren calls for probe of soaring poultry prices

2 minute read

A truck laden with chicken leg quarters leaves Sanderson Farms poultry processing plant enroute to Mexico, in Palestine, Texas, U.S., January 17, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lange/File Photo

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

CHICAGO, Nov 22 (Reuters) - U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren on Monday called on the Justice Department to open a broad investigation on the impact of price- fixing and consolidation in the poultry sector on consumers and farmers.

The former Democratic presidential candidate also urged the department's Antitrust Division to review "with suspicion" any large mergers in the industry, after Cargill Inc and Continental Grain said in August they would buy chicken company Sanderson Farms (SAFM.O) for $4.53 billion. read more

Warren said in a letter that consumers are paying higher prices because of excessive consolidation, price-fixing and "plain-old corporate greed."

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Prices for chicken breasts have jumped 26% over the past year, according to U.S. Labor Department data, while turkey prices were up 24% in an annual American Farm Bureau Federation survey ahead of Thanksgiving. read more

The meat industry has said increased demand and the labor shortage have boosted prices. Four processors control 54% of the chicken market, up from 35% in 1986, according to the Biden administration. read more

"Lack of competition in the poultry industry is allowing these massive companies to squeeze both American consumers and farmers to fuel record corporate profits and payouts to shareholders," Warren said.

The Justice Department is investigating price-fixing among some chicken producers. The Biden administration is also promising a tougher stance toward four companies that control the U.S. beef market as a way to rein in prices. read more

In February, chicken company Pilgrim's Pride Corp (PPC.O) pleaded guilty and settled federal charges that it conspired to fix prices and passed on the costs to consumers. read more

A month earlier, Tyson Foods Inc (TSN.N) settled civil litigation by three groups of plaintiffs that accused it of illegally conspiring to inflate chicken prices. read more

Warren asked the Justice Department to report by Dec. 20 on how price-fixing and consolidation have contributed to higher poultry prices.

Republican U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley previously raised concerns about the takeover of Sanderson Farms, the third-largest U.S. chicken producer. read more

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com
Reporting by Tom Polansek; Editing by Dan Grebler

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.