Thursday, June 27, 2019

"Some of America’s Top Chicken Purveyors Are Under Investigation for Price Fixing" (plus Adam Smith does a cameo)

"The investigation could spell bad news for Big Chicken"

From Eater:
The U.S. Justice Department is pursuing a criminal investigation into claims that some of the country’s biggest poultry companies — including Tyson, Perdue, and Pilgrim’s Pride — orchestrated a massive price-fixing scheme involving broiler chickens. 

Last week, the DOJ intervened in a class-action lawsuit filed by purveyor Maplevale Farms alleging that some of the country’s top poultry processors were manipulating chicken prices. The Justice Department asked a federal judge in Illinois to stop the discovery process related to the Maplevale suit for six months so that the federal agency could continue its investigation into these big companies. “The Justice Department wants to make sure they get first crack at all the possible evidence,” Peter C. Carstensen, an antitrust expert at University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Law School, tells the Times. “Within six months, either they’ll present the case to the grand jury or they’ll decide there’s not enough there to qualify for proof of liability beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Maplevale’s suit claims that Tyson Foods, Sanderson Farms, Perdue Farms, and Pilgrim’s Pride worked together to drive up the price of broiler chickens by destroying flocks of breeder hens, thereby reducing production rates. (This scheme is oddly reminiscent of the plot of a recent Billions episode called “Chickentown.”) The suit alleges that these companies used a subscription service called Agri Stats to share information with each other about the age of their chickens and operating costs....MORE
This isn't the first time. From November 2016:
Questions America Wants Answered: "Are Chicken Prices Being Manipulated?"

So actually the question before us is: Do we base policy on the first or the second half of  Adam Smith's famous quote:
"People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices. It is impossible indeed to prevent such meetings, by any law which either could be executed, or would be consistent with liberty and justice. But though the law cannot hinder people of the same trade from sometimes assembling together, it ought to do nothing to facilitate such assemblies; much less to render them necessary."
— Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (Book I, Ch. 10, ¶ 82)
Me? I just like the image of Big Chicken.