April 12, 2006

Jury finds against 3 large beef companies

ABERDEEN, South Dakota (Reuters) - A federal court jury in
South Dakota on Wednesday found against three of the largest
U.S. beef companies in a class-action cattle pricing suit filed
by three cattle producers.

The jury recommended fines of $4 million against Tyson
Foods Inc.; $3 million against Cargill Meat Solutions, a unit
of Cargill Inc.; and $2.25 million against Swift & Co. A fourth
company named in the suit, National Beef Packing Co., was

The three producers claimed the beef companies in 2001
knowingly used incorrect government beef data to depress the
prices they paid for cattle.

The court case went to the eight-member jury on Tuesday.

The suit was filed in July 2002 and concerned the time
frame of April 2 to May 11, 2001, when calculating errors by
the U.S. Agriculture Department caused beef prices in its daily
boxed beef reports to be quoted lower than they should have
been. USDA admitted the errors and later published the correct

However, the three plaintiffs claimed the beef companies
knew of the price errors before USDA discovered the mistakes
and used that knowledge to depress the prices they paid for

The suit was filed in 2002, by Roger Koch of Nebraska,
Herman Schumacher of South Dakota, and Michael Callicrate of

Representatives of Tyson, Cargill and Swift had no
immediate comment.