Lawsuit Claims Chicken Industry Killed Birds to Illegally Inflate Prices

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Chickens are forced to endure some of the worst abuses in animal agribusiness, and Animal Outlook works to bring their suffering, and that of all farmed animals, to light. Our investigators have revealed birds buried alive in pits and newly hatched chicks ground alive or left to slowly die.

Despite desperate efforts by the industry to hide such abuse, we continue to be an effective voice for millions of farmed chickens. Our latest investigation uncovered horrific abuses at broiler breeder facilities contracted by Tyson Foods — and sparked immediate policy change at this top chicken producer (also sign our petition asking Tyson to stop starving birds).

According to a disturbing new lawsuit, Tyson and other major players in the poultry industry have not only been cruel to chickens, but they’ve been illegally cheating consumers.

Food distributor Maplevale Farms just filed a proposed class action lawsuit against Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s Pride, Perdue and several other major poultry producers. The suit claims that the companies killed broiler breeder hens (the parent flocks of the birds killed for meat) in order to illegally inflate prices by nearly 50 percent.

According to the lawsuit, “defendants cut their ability to ramp up production for 18 months or more by destroying broiler breeder hens in their broiler breeder flocks responsible for supplying the eggs defendants raise into broilers. This destruction of the broiler breeder flock was unparalleled, and the consequences continue to reverberate in the broiler industry to present day.”

Broiler chickens account for 98 percent of all chicken meat sold in the U.S., and the defendant companies control a whopping 90 percent of the market, the suit states. Considering that there are no federal laws protecting chickens, these corporate interests are bound by few regulations.

Price-fixing by animal ag isn’t a new complaint. In the 1970s, poultry breeders faced a similar accusation, and the Department of Justice sued more than 36 companies for the same crime.

Chickens are remarkable animals with distinct personalities. Consider this: They’re smarter than human toddlers. Chickens display empathy for one another, can master skills including self-control and planning ahead, and go to great lengths to protect their nests — and their babies. They deserve better than a needless death to line the pockets of Big Ag.

These egregious abuses aren’t limited to chicken producers. Big Dairy is set to pay a $52 million settlement for a similar lawsuit over a price-fixing scheme involving 70 percent of the U.S. dairy industry. The price-fixing conspiracy killed 500,000 young cows, in what industry trade groups called a “dairy herd retirement program,” and illegally inflated prices. Animal Outlook conducted the initial case theory research and development for this case before bringing it to Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, the firm that filed the suit in 2011.

Clearly, greed and cruelty are nothing new for the meat, dairy and egg industries, who see living animals as mere commodities.

The best way to ensure the well-being of our animal friends, and opt out of supporting industry corruption, is to keep animals off our plates. Check out for simple and delicious recipes to help you get started.

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