Tyson Foods, the largest producer of meat in the United States, has revealed it is the subject of an investigation into allegations it conspired to manipulate the price of chicken.
In official filings on Monday it said it had received a subpoena on 20 January from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) following the allegations from a number of poultry growers.
The investigation was sparked by a series of private lawsuits by US poultry buyers in 2016 accusing the Springdale-based company and its rivals of colluding to reduce output and control prices since 2008.
Tyson, Sanderson Farms and Pilgrim’s Pride, at the centre of the allegations, have denied the accusations.
Tyson’s chief executive Tom Hayes decline to comment on the investigation to the Wall Street Journal except to say the company were keen to have their say in court.
“We’re anxious to defend ourselves in court and feel we have a great story to tell,” he said.
The food production giants, which comprise 98% of the chicken meat industry in the US, have come under increased scrutiny over the past year as customers and farmers have filed a number of lawsuits accusing the companies of breaking antitrust violations relating to pricing, production and compensation, according to Meat and Poultry.
According to Tyson's report, it and other food producers are accused of conspiring to reduce the supply of chickens to inflate prices and lower payments to growers.
The report said: "The plaintiffs allege, among other things, that the defendants colluded not to compete for broiler raising services 'with the purpose and effect of fixing, maintaining, and /or stabilising grower compensation below competitive levels' though the use of certain benchmarking services and an agreement 'not to solicit or recruit growers from one another' in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act."
In trading Monday, Tyson shares fell 3.4% to close at $63.13 in response to the news of the subopena.
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