If between 2009 and 2020, you purchased fresh or frozen raw chicken for the purposes of preparing a meal, you may be in line for an unexpected payday.
A class-action lawsuit against several chicken-processing companies has been settled to the tune of $181 million.
All you have to do to get your share is fill out a form. And then wait.
You likely won’t be alone because chicken is one popular protein. It comes in second in annual consumption to red meat, but the gap is closing.
According to the National Chicken Council, chicken consumption continues to grow in the U.S. In 2009, the first year of date range for this settlement, Americans ate 80 pounds of chicken per person. In 2020, that number grew to almost 100 pounds.
The companies named in the suit (Fieldale Farms Corporation, George’s, Mar-Jac Poultry, Peco Foods, Pilgrim’s Pride and Tyson Foods) were charged with conspiring to fix the supply of chicken to maintain a certain price level, a violation of federal and state consumer antitrust laws.
The settlement amount was announced Sept. 10, but will not be finalized until the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois gives final approval at a hearing Dec. 20, 2021.
How Much Money Can You Get?
How much will be distributed among class action participants is uncertain, but all participants in the suit are likely to be rewarded with some amount. The reason the individual payout is uncertain is because it is unknown how many consumers will file a claim. This is a fairly large settlement at $181 million but the pool of claimants could also be quite large.
Remember, Americans have eaten on average between 80 to 100 pound of chicken a year in the time frame of the suit. Some of that is nuggets and chicken sandwiches purchased at restaurants and fast-food joints, but a portion is chicken purchased to prepare at home, and that is what the suit encompasses.
As a point of reference, the cereal manufacturing giant, Kellogg, was required recently to pay $13 million because of incorrect labeling on some of its “heart healthy” or “lightly sweetened” breakfast cereals. The products were neither. It was expected that consumers who bought the cereals between 2012 and 2020 could get about $16 each if they filed claims by the deadline.
The Payout Doesn’t Cover All 50 States
According to the chicken price fixing lawsuit, anyone who was a resident of certain U.S. states between Jan. 1, 2009, and July 31, 2019 (extended into 2020 for Pilgrim’s Pride), and indirectly purchased whole chicken, chicken breasts, or wings from the settling poultry processors is eligible for a portion of the settlement.
An indirect purchase is one from a third party distributor rather than directly from the companies named in the suit. It’s likely that nearly everyone who will file a claim is in this category because it’s almost certain most of the chicken was purchased from a grocery store rather than directly from the producers.
Residents of the following states can participate: California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.
Common Questions about the Settlement
Katherine Webster is settlements editor for Top Class Actions, a website which tracks class action lawsuits for consumers so they don’t have to. She’s rounded up answers for questions that she suspects The Penny Hoarder readers will have.
How do I prove I bought chicken in the designated way during the designated period?
For this settlement, proof of purchase is not required. Class members simply need to fill out and submit a claim form by Dec. 31, 2022 (yes, 2022). However, the claims administrator may request that a claimant provide additional information or documentation later.
How can I track the progress of the settlement as it progresses?
The settlement administrator maintains a website for information about the case. And, Top Class Actions will provide updates on the settlement article itself and via email as more information becomes available.
Is it worth my time to fill out the form?
Everyone has to decide for themselves whether it’s worth their time to join a settlement, but the claims process is simple — especially with no proof of purchase required at this time. If a consumer is an eligible Class Member, they have the opportunity to receive money they are entitled to under the terms of the settlement agreement. More details here from Top Class Actions.
For this particular settlement, Class Members who file a valid claim will receive a proportionate share of the settlement fund — currently $181 million before attorneys’ fees and other costs are deducted — based on their broiler chicken purchases.
In addition, those who submit timely claim forms in this settlement will automatically participate in any future settlements with other defendants unless the Class Member chooses to opt out.
Top Class Actions follows settlements already made, open class action lawsuits and payments already made. You may be in line for a settlement amount and not know it, so take a look. Here are the settlements deadlining in September and The Penny Hoarder publishes settlement deadlines monthly provided by Top Class Actions.
Kent McDill is a veteran journalist who has specialized in personal finance topics since 2013. He is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.