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MONTGOMERY, Ala. - A federal court jury here yesterday awarded $1.28 billion to a group of cattlemen after finding that Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc. had unfairly manipulated cattle prices.
The suit was filed in 1996 against IBP, Inc., claiming the company used contracts with a select few beef producers to create a captive supply of cattle. The cattlemen charged that Tyson relied on this captive supply when cattle prices were high, and entered the market for cattle only when prices were low, causing cattle prices to be depressed. Tyson merged with IBP in 2001.
The six cattlemen filed the suit on behalf of up to 30,000 ranchers who sold cattle to Tyson in the cash market from February 1994 to October 2002.
Tyson countered that although it buys about 10 million heads of cattle sold to U.S. packers annually, about one-third of the annual production, that share of the market doesn't allow the company to set the market price.
Tyson said it plans to appeal the class action verdict.