VICTORIA, Texas (CN) - A Texas beef producer's motion to intervene "must be put out to pasture," a federal judge ruled in an antitrust case that takes on the alleged Akaushi cattle monopoly in the U.S.
HeartBrand Beef dominates the U.S. market for Akaushi beef, a pricier meat derived from Japanese cattle and known to contain beneficial acids and a greater amount of marbling than other beef, beef producer Bear Ranch says.
HeartBrand's website notes that "a small nucleus of Akaushi cows and bulls were brought to the United States in a specially equipped Boeing 747" in 1994 because of a loophole in the trade act of 1992 between the United States and Japan.
"Today, Akaushi genetics are controlled by a group of Texans under the name HeartBrand Beef, Inc.," the website states.
But Bear Ranch says HeartBrand maintains its monopoly in the U.S. by illegally applying anticompetitive restrictions to the cattle it sells, their offspring, and those cattle exchanged between other parties.
HeartBrand requires purchasers to register offspring with the American Akaushi Association and restricts sales of the cattle to members of the association, Bear Ranch claims.
Bear Ranch filed a federal complaint in March against HeartBrand, its chairman Ronald Beeman and the American Akaushi Association.
In addition to purchasing Akaushi cattle from HeartBrand, Bear Ranch turned to other beef producers, including Twinwood Cattle Co., as it assembled a herd of nearly 1,200.
"Twinwood now seeks to join the rodeo," U.S. District Judge Gregg Costa wrote Thursday.
Costa denied Twinwood's motion to intervene, which sought "a declaratory judgment that the 'most favored nations' clause in its contract with HeartBrand entitles it to the same benefits that Bear Ranch has now and will receive if that company prevails in invalidating the obligations and restrictions in its own contract with HeartBrand," according to the ruling.
"Bear Ranch and HeartBrand defendants have momentarily ceased stamping their hooves at each other to join forces in opposition to Twinwood's motion," Costa added.
Twinwood's interest is indirect and speculative, according to the ruling.
"Because Twinwood does not satisfy the standard for intervention as a matter of right and has not shown there to be an independent grounds of jurisdiction that could allow permissive intervention, some culling of the herd is appropriate," Costa wrote.
Subscribe to Closing Arguments
Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.