Lawsuit Against Poultry Companies Moves Forward Against Pilgrim’s Pride

A significant legal battle involving major poultry producers took a decisive turn recently when a federal judge in Oklahoma granted class certification to a lawsuit against Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. The lawsuit alleges that Pilgrim’s Pride, along with other poultry companies, engaged in practices that suppressed the wages of broiler chicken growers.

Background of the Lawsuit

The lawsuit, which has been in the making for several years, involves a class of 24,354 broiler chicken growers. These growers claim that since at least 2008, Pilgrim’s Pride and its alleged co-conspirators engaged in a conspiracy to suppress their wages. According to the plaintiffs, this was achieved through either a No-Poach Agreement (NPA) or an Information Sharing Agreement (ISA).

The NPA purportedly prevented companies from “poaching, soliciting, or recruiting growers from one another.” This agreement allegedly discouraged growers from switching between integrators and deterred them from moving into areas where an integrator was already established. As a result, the growers’ ability to negotiate better terms or seek higher wages was significantly hindered.

Class Certification Granted

On May 13, 2024, Judge Robert J. Shelby of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma granted class certification to the growers, allowing the lawsuit to proceed. This decision marks a pivotal moment in the legal proceedings, enabling the growers to collectively seek compensation for the alleged wage suppression.

In his ruling, Judge Shelby acknowledged the plaintiffs’ claims that Pilgrim’s Pride and its alleged co-conspirators engaged in coordinated efforts to control the market for broiler chicken growers’ services. This class certification allows the growers to pool their resources and pursue their claims as a unified group, potentially increasing their chances of success.

Allegations Against Pilgrim’s Pride

Pilgrim’s Pride remains the primary defendant in this case after several other poultry companies, including Tyson Foods Inc., Koch Foods, and Perdue Foods, settled their respective claims for millions of dollars in recent years. Despite these settlements, Pilgrim’s Pride has consistently denied the allegations, maintaining that there was no overarching agreement among the poultry companies to suppress growers’ wages.

The plaintiffs argue that the alleged NPA and ISA agreements facilitated an environment where growers were unable to freely move between integrators or negotiate better terms for their services. This, they claim, led to a stagnation in wages and limited economic mobility for thousands of growers across the country.

Pilgrim’s Pride’s Defense

In response to the class certification, Pilgrim’s Pride reiterated its position that there was no broad conspiracy among the poultry companies. The company has previously denied the allegations in various court filings, arguing that the plaintiffs’ claims are unfounded and lack substantive evidence.

Pilgrim’s Pride has asserted that its business practices are lawful and that it competes fairly in the marketplace. The company contends that the plaintiffs’ allegations are based on misunderstandings of the industry and misinterpretations of standard business practices.

Implications for the Poultry Industry

The outcome of this lawsuit could have significant implications for the poultry industry. If the plaintiffs succeed in proving their claims, it could lead to substantial financial liabilities for Pilgrim’s Pride and potentially set a precedent for future litigation involving wage suppression and anti-competitive practices.

Moreover, a successful lawsuit could prompt increased regulatory scrutiny of the poultry industry, particularly regarding labor practices and competition. This could lead to more stringent regulations and oversight aimed at ensuring fair treatment and compensation for growers.

Legal and Industry Reactions

The granting of class certification has been met with mixed reactions within the legal and poultry industries. Advocates for the growers view it as a crucial step toward achieving justice and fair compensation for thousands of hardworking individuals. They argue that the lawsuit highlights systemic issues within the poultry industry that need to be addressed.

Conversely, industry representatives and some legal experts caution that the lawsuit could have unintended consequences. They argue that increased litigation and regulatory scrutiny could disrupt the industry, potentially leading to higher costs for consumers and reduced competitiveness for US poultry producers on the global stage.

Next Steps

With class certification granted, the lawsuit will now proceed to the discovery phase, where both parties will gather and exchange evidence. This phase is critical for the plaintiffs as they seek to substantiate their claims and demonstrate the alleged conspiracy’s impact on their wages.

Pilgrim’s Pride will likely continue to vigorously defend against the allegations, challenging the plaintiffs’ evidence and presenting its case for lawful business practices. The outcome of this phase will significantly influence the lawsuit’s trajectory and potential resolution.


The class certification granted by Judge Robert J. Shelby represents a pivotal moment in the ongoing legal battle between broiler chicken growers and Pilgrim’s Pride. As the lawsuit progresses, it will be closely watched by industry stakeholders, legal experts, and advocacy groups alike.

The growers’ quest for fair compensation and accountability underscores broader concerns about labor practices and competition within the poultry industry. The eventual outcome of this lawsuit could have far-reaching implications, shaping the future landscape of the industry and influencing how poultry companies interact with their growers.

As the case unfolds, stakeholders will remain vigilant, anticipating the potential impacts and preparing for the possible changes that may arise from this landmark legal proceeding.

Read: Pilgrim’s Pride Paramount Performance

Source MeatPoultry

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