According to a report from Reuters, JBS USA has agreed to pay a $52.5 million settlement over allegations of beef price-fixing. The lawsuit alleged that the company conspired to limit the supply of the U.S. beef market in order to inflate prices and boost profit.
The settlement, which is still awaiting approval by Chief Judge John Tunheim of the federal court in Minneapolis, would be paid to direct-purchaser plaintiffs. JBS said it did not admit liability but that settling was in its best interest, according to JBS spokesperson. The company also said it will defend against beef price-fixing claims by other plaintiffs.
This announcement of settlement of comes one month after the Biden Administration declared their intent to create a more competitive and resilient meat and poultry supply chain.
Demand for a continued investigation
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association found the settlement “deeply disturbing,” according to a news release. The NCBA was the first national organization to request a government investigation of beef markets in 2019. Now there are settlements occurring without the U.S. Department of Justice having released findings or even providing cattle producers with an update on progress.
“In August 2019, following a fire at the Tyson plant in Holcomb, KS, NCBA sent a letter to USDA requesting an examination of price discrepancies in fed cattle markets,” according to the NCBA’s news release. “Again in 2020, NCBA took its plea directly to the White House, which then directed DOJ to investigate possible wrongdoing in the cattle markets. NCBA has also worked directly with members of Congress to press DOJ for an update and information about its investigation.
“America’s cattle producers expect and deserve full transparency on any, and all, information related to the ongoing market investigations. NCBA encourages the government to finalize its investigation so we can fully understand any damage that may have been caused,” said Colin Woodall, NCBA CEO. “It is clear from this settlement that cattle producers still don’t have all the information they have demanded and is deserved. The DOJ has an obligation to finish their investigation. Cattle producers do not have years to wait for the government to determine whether there has been wrongdoing, we demand answers now.”
Although the DOJ seemingly started an investigation, no findings have been publicized. Cargill Inc., National Beef Packing Co., and Tyson Foods Inc. are the other defendants listed in the lawsuit.