Chicago, IL – A federal jury in Illinois has awarded $17.7 million in damages to several food manufacturing companies who filed a lawsuit against major egg producers over allegations of conspiring to limit the egg supply in the United States. The damages, which were automatically tripled under federal law to over $53 million, were the result of a jury ruling that the egg producers engaged in practices to restrict the domestic egg supply and increase prices during the 2000s. The specific timeframe identified by the jury for the conspiracy was between 2004 and 2008.
Court documents show that the defendants have denied the claims made against them. The egg suppliers involved in the case exported eggs overseas in order to decrease the supply in the domestic market. Additionally, they implemented measures such as limiting the number of chickens through cage space, early slaughter, and flock reduction. Jurors were instructed not to consider more recent changes in egg pricing during their deliberations.
The food manufacturers who joined as plaintiffs in the lawsuit include Kraft Foods Global, Inc., The Kellogg Company, General Mills, Inc., and Nestle USA, Inc. The egg suppliers found to have participated 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-based company previously chaired by former Chair John Rust.
Rose Acre Farms, which claims to be the second-largest egg producer in the U.S., expressed disagreement with the jury’s verdict in a written statement and stated its intention to explore all legal options, including post-trial relief and appeal. Cal-Maine Foods, Inc. is also considering an appeal and has petitioned the court to rule in its favor.
In response to the jury’s ruling, Rust, who is currently running for the U.S. Senate in Indiana, criticized his opponent U.S. Rep. Jim Banks for siding with “mega corporations over the American farmer.” In turn, Banks labeled Rust as a “crook” and highlighted the support he has received from the Indiana Republican Party and former President Donald Trump.
The damages awarded by the jury recognize the significance of the case and the impact it had on the food manufacturing industry. The trial shed light on the alleged anti-competitive practices carried out by major egg producers, ultimately resulting in a substantial financial penalty.