(CNN) – The US government is attempting to initiate a price-fixing process as part of an investigation by the chicken industry to launch a price-fixing process against the country's largest poultry.
The Department of Justice informed Tyson in April that it had convened a large jury and summoned the company to provide evidence. On Friday, department lawyers asked a judge to suspend the evidence in the lawsuit for six months to ensure the integrity of the grand jury's investigation. The Justice Department announced in its lawsuit on Friday that it is pursuing an investigation similar to the civil suit.
The underlying case was brought forward in September 2016 by Maplevale Farms, a New York food service retailer.
According to his complaint, Maplevale claims that 28 chicken companies have "banded together to fix, raise, maintain and stabilize the price of broilers," which are the predominant type of chicken in the United States to be bred for production. Maplevale claims chicken producers have co-ordinated their production and limited chicken production to raise prices.
The application was previously reported last month by the Food and Environment Reporting Network and the Wall Street Journal.
Walmart joined the fight and sued many of the same poultry companies. Walmart accused the chicken companies of killing juveniles to raise prices and increase production once prices reached a satisfactory level. It is unclear by what law Walmart objects. The food distribution giant Sysco sued the poultry companies last year.
Tyson, Pilgrim's Pride, Sanderson and Perdue together control 51% of the chicken industry, according to Watt Poultry USA, a poultry publication.
In a Statement On Tuesday, Tyson's request by the Department of Justice to intervene in Maplevale Farms does not change our view that the allegations that Tyson Foods has worked with competitors are simply unfounded. We remain determined to defend ourselves against these unsubstantiated allegations. Sanderson said that it "continues to believe that the claims of the plaintiffs regarding Sanderson Farms are completely unfounded, and we are determined to vigorously defend the case." Pilgrim's Pride said it "emphatically denies all allegations of anti-competitive behavior. [and] welcomes the opportunity to defend itself against these allegations through the trial."
The Ministry of Justice declined to comment. Perdue declined to comment.
– Danielle Wiener-Bronner of CNN Business has contributed to this report.