Chicken Farmers Sue Pilgrim’s for Fowl Deal

     TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (CN) – Pilgrim’s Pride, the largest chicken producer in the United States, cheats its suppliers, who “were not ever paid for the actual weight of their birds (chickens), but were instead paid on a ‘watered down’ weight basis,” 19 chicken farms claim in court.
     Lead plaintiff Freddy Tidwell sued Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. and its corporate parent JBS USA in Federal Court.
     The complaint states: “For many years, the plaintiffs have grown and raised chickens for the defendants based upon the oral and written representations made to them by the defendants that they would be paid by the actual pound per bird (chicken), with more money being paid to the plaintiffs for a higher average bird (chicken) weight, and less money being paid to the plaintiffs for a lower average bird (chicken) weight.
     Defendants continuously and over time represented to the plaintiffs that they were being paid in accordance with the foregoing terms. These representations were made to the plaintiffs in their resident counties as well as in Marion County, Alabama, in person, over the phone and through the mail. Plaintiffs reasonably relied on the foregoing representations and continued growing and raising chickens for the defendants believing they were being paid for the birds as set forth above.
     “However, unbeknownst to the plaintiffs, the defendants’ executives, directors, principles, agents and administrative staff have over the years conspired to reduce the amount of payments actually made to the plaintiffs for their birds (chickens) in an effort to increase corporate profits. Plaintiffs have discovered an undisclosed corporate scheme that ensured that plaintiffs were not ever paid for the actual weight of their birds (chickens), but were instead paid on a ‘watered down’ weight basis. These corporate practices of and by the defendants were a pattern and practice of the defendants and were instituted and kept in place over time to increase corporate profits by depriving the plaintiffs of monies owed the plaintiffs.
     “The above identified representations made to the plaintiffs regarding being paid for the actual pound per bird by the defendants were made to induce the plaintiffs to grow and raise and continue to grow and raise chickens for the defendants for as cheap as possible to increase corporate profits. The representations made to the plaintiffs by the defendants were made intentionally to mislead and the representations were false, and the defendants knew they were false when made to the plaintiffs.
     “Plaintiffs reasonably relied upon the defendants’ misrepresentations, and did so to their detriment.
     “Plaintiffs discovered the defendants’ fraud within 2 years of filing this action against the defendants.
     “The defendants’ fraudulent conduct was done intentionally, recklessly, negligently and wantonly and defendants have a pattern and practice of making similar representations to other individuals to induce them into acting similarly.
     As a result, the farmers say: Plaintiffs have been injured and damaged as follows: Plaintiffs have not been compensated in accordance with the terms as represented to them by the defendants; plaintiffs are owed hundreds of thousands of dollars by the defendants; plaintiffs have undertaken over time to build and construct chicken houses for the defendants and have upgraded their chicken houses over time as instructed by the defendants; plaintiffs paid a sums of money for purchases they would not have otherwise purchased; plaintiffs have been forced to suffer severe mental and emotional distress, which continues, and plaintiffs have otherwise been injured and damaged.”
     The complaint does not state how the birds’ weights were “watered down,” nor by how much.
     The farmers seek compensatory, treble and punitive damages for fraudulent misrepresentation, fraudulent suppression, civil conspiracy, racketeering and negligence.
     They are represented by Christopher Sanspree of Montgomery, Ala.
     Pilgrim’s Pride reported sales of $7.5 billion in 2011 and has the capacity to process 36 million birds a week, or 9.5 billion pounds of live chickens a year, according to its own estimates.

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