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

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). All the lawsuits accuse the company of facilitating anti-competitive behavior because, with the almost real-time data, meat processors can see what their counterparts are planning.

OPINION: Courts need to end Big Meat data sharing

Big Meat's secret weapon is a company called Agri Stats. Every week a bunch of Big Meat companies send Agri Stats a raft load of internal sales documents which Agri Stats merges into a industry wide sales report and sends back to subscribers. Agri Stats and those reports are at the heart of numerous lawsuits alleging that the reporting system allows Big Meat to participate in illegal anticompetitive activity.

Opinion: Big Meat lets down public…yet again

JBS SA owned Pilgrim's Pride is the second-largest chicken processor in the United States. But now as it turns out Pilgrims Pride is also more crooked than Lombard Street.

Opinion: The Packers and Stockyards Act needs a major rewrite

If that’s not enough the Department of Justice has subpoenaed Big-Meats “big four” – Tyson Foods, JBS SA, Cargill, and National Beef/Marfrig – in an attempt to learn if there’s been price fixing hanky-panky during the COVID-19 crisis. The subpoenas come at the request of Attorneys general from North Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Missouri, Idaho, and Arizona and South Dakota who collectively can’t figure out what the heck is going on with cattle prices in the last several months.