The Department of Justice has charged four poultry industry executives—including the CEO of one of the country’s largest chicken producers—for their role in an alleged conspiracy to fix the price of chicken.
Jayson Penn, the CEO of Pilgrim’s Pride, and three others have been accused of conspiring to fix prices and rig bids for chicken sold to restaurants and grocery stores between at least 2012 and 2017. The DOJ announced the charges in a press release Wednesday after a grand jury in Colorado returned a one-count indictment.
“Particularly in times of global crisis, the division remains committed to prosecuting crimes intended to raise the prices Americans pay for food,” Makan Delrahim, the assistant attorney general in charge of the DOJ’s antitrust division, said in the press release. “Executives who cheat American consumers, restauranteurs (sic), and grocers, and compromise the integrity of our food supply, will be held responsible for their actions.”
The other executives charged in the indictment were Roger Austin, a vice-president of Pilgrim’s Pride, Mikell Fries, Claxton Poultry Farms’ president, and vice president, Scott Brady.
Brady is a former Pilgrim’s Pride executive who joined Georgia-based Claxton Poultry Farms in 2012.
The foursome are the first to be charged in what the DOJ said is an ongoing investigation. If convicted, these executives could face a maximum 10-year prison sentence and a $1-million fine.