Egg Producers Found Guilty of Conspiracy to Limit Supply, Ordered to Pay $53 Million in Damages

Indianapolis — A federal jury in Illinois has awarded $17.7 million in damages, tripled to over $53 million under federal law, to multiple food manufacturing companies in their lawsuit against major egg producers. The companies accused the egg producers of conspiring to limit the egg supply in the United States, leading to increased product prices during the 2000s. The jury determined that the actions took place between 2004 and 2008.

The verdict was reached on Friday in the Northern District of Illinois. According to federal antitrust law, the damages are automatically tripled, resulting in a total of over $53 million. Statements from the manufacturers’ attorney and one of the egg producers confirmed the $17.7 million figure. The court documents regarding the verdict were not immediately available.

Brandon Fox, the attorney representing the food manufacturers, expressed gratitude for the jury’s service and findings, stating that the case held significant importance, and the jury’s award recognized that. The attorneys for the four egg suppliers named in the lawsuit did not respond to phone messages. However, court documents indicate that the defendants have denied the claims.

The egg suppliers involved in the conspiracy were found to have exported eggs abroad to decrease the domestic market’s overall supply. They also implemented strategies such as limiting the number of chickens through measures like reducing cage space, early slaughter, and flock reduction. The jury was instructed not to consider recent changes in egg pricing during their deliberations.

Joining as plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the egg producers were food manufacturers Kraft Foods Global Inc., Kellogg Co., General Mills Inc., and Nestle USA Inc. The egg suppliers implicated in the conspiracy were Cal-Maine Foods Inc., United Egg Producers Inc., United States Egg Marketers Inc., and Rose Acre Farms Inc., a southern Indiana company previously chaired by John Rust, who is currently running for the U.S. Senate.

Rose Acre Farms disagreed with the jury’s verdict, stating its denial of being part of any anti-competitive egg price-fixing conspiracy. The company intends to explore and consider all legal options, including post-trial relief and appeal. Cal-Maine Foods expressed respect for the jury’s decision while also asserting its belief in having done nothing wrong. The company has petitioned the court to rule in its favor and will evaluate its options, including the possibility of an appeal.

In summary, a federal jury in Illinois has ordered over $53 million in damages, tripled from the original $17.7 million, to be paid by major egg producers to food manufacturing companies. The jury concluded that the egg producers conspired to limit the domestic supply of eggs between 2004 and 2008, leading to increased product prices. The implicated egg suppliers exported eggs abroad and implemented various measures to reduce the supply. The defendants have denied the allegations and may pursue post-trial relief or appeal.