Providing Evidence as Client Cleared in Broiler Chicken Price-Fixing Case

The Situation

Starting in 2016, broiler chicken producers in the United States faced allegations of conduct that allegedly raised the prices of broiler chicken, including coordinated supply restrictions and fixing a price index. Cases were brought by various plaintiffs, including Direct Action Plaintiffs, who filed their amended consolidated complaint in January 2021 in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Plaintiffs alleged there was a conspiracy that spanned the US from 2008 to 2019. Defendants included over 20 broiler chicken producers, as well as Agri Stats, a third-party information aggregator.

NERA's Role

NERA was retained by defendant Fieldale Farms to assess the economic analyses presented by plaintiffs’ economic experts as they pertained to Fieldale Farms. Director Dr. Kate Foreman wrote an expert report in connection with the matter. Dr. Foreman presented evidence on trends in Fieldale’s actual production of chicken, the differentiation between Fieldale’s antibiotic free chicken and conventional broiler chicken, and Fieldale’s unilateral incentives regarding its own production decisions. She also conducted an analysis of plaintiffs’ economic experts’ output and overcharge regressions.

The Result

In July 2023 (with a trial scheduled for September 2023), Fieldale Farms was dismissed on summary judgment by Judge Thomas M. Durkin. The court found there was insufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to find that Fieldale  joined a conspiracy to restrict supply and increase the price of broiler chicken. The court also found there was insufficient evidence regarding the alleged manipulation of the price index. Furthermore, the court granted Fieldale’s motion for summary judgment that Fieldale’s antibiotic free chicken was a differentiated product.