Jury Awards $17.8 Million to Kraft, Kellogg, General Mills and Nestle for Egg Price Fixing

Dec. 1, 2023
Cal-Maine Foods, Rose Acre Farms and two of their trade associations were found guilty, but may appeal.

A federal jury in Illinois today (Dec. 1) awarded $17.8 million in compensatory damages to Kraft, Kellogg, General Mills and Nestle for price fixing in the 2000s by egg producers Cal-Maine Foods, Rose Acre Farms and two of their trade associations.

The four food companies had asked the jury for $25.4 million in damages from the egg producers and trade groups United Egg Producers Inc. and United States Egg Marketers Inc. The jury awarded Kraft (now Kraft Heinz) $12.83 million, Kellogg (now Kellanova) $3.22 million, General Mills $910,000 and Nestle $810,000. Law calls for the jury award to be tripled, but the jury was not told that.

The jury found the conspiracy consisted of four elements between October 2004 and December 2008, according to a Bloomberg Law report: short-term measures such as early slaughter and flock reduction, boosting exports to reduce the supply of domestic eggs, deliberately adjusting cage space and hen house density, and restricting the re-population of cages due to mortality.

After 12 years of litigation and a brief trial, the jury returned a guilty verdict on Nov. 21. The same jury returned this week to determine damages.

Cal-Maine’s response today was similar to its statement of Nov. 22: that the reduction in hens was a response “to demands from consumers and retailers to improve the overall treatment of egg laying hens. These programs were in line with other prevailing animal welfare laws across the protein industry and were not intended to restrict supply and affect prices. The programs were supported by our customers and form the basis of many state laws across the country today.”

Today’s statement added, “Because Cal-Maine Foods believes that the plaintiffs’ claims fail as a matter of law, Cal-Maine Foods has petitioned the court to enter a judgment in its favor, known as a directed verdict, notwithstanding the jury’s decision.” That matter is still to be decided.