‘Is this legal?’: Why an obscure data service has been sued nearly 100 times for facilitating anti-competitive behavior

Eli Hoff is a Gary Marx Journalism Fund intern. In the mid-2000s, a poultry researcher approached James MacDonald, then a branch chief for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, with some data. Its detail and depth shocked him. “My reaction was, ‘Jeez, is this legal?’” MacDonald said. The question remains unanswered, albeit not for lack of trying: Agri Stats — a widely utilized, privately-held data and analytics firm for the meat processing industry — has been named in more than 90 lawsuits since 2016, making it the second-most sued company in the industry over that time span (Tyson Foods is first).

GRAPHIC: Expect to pay more for food in 2021 – except for eggs

In 2020, the price of food rose more than 3% over the price the year before. This includes both food eaten out and food cooked at home, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Consumers saw the price of meat spike in 2020 as well with beef and veal prices increasing 9.6%, poultry prices increasing 5.6% and pork prices increasing 6.3%