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Beef Magazine Oct 8, 2020



R-CALF continues court battles to change the course of the beef business


In spite of recent losses in its efforts to litigate changes to the beef business, R-CALF continues to use the court system to get its way.


There have been a decision and two filings in R-CALF’s busy litigation department in recent days.


One was likely considered a win for the industry, one a further attack on the Beef Checkoff and the other a motion by activists harassing the industry.


In 2019, R-CALF and its Park Avenue, New York legal partners sued the big four U.S. meatpackers, alleging conspiracy to fix and suppress fed cattle prices, violating antitrust laws. A Minnesota judge’s opinion released Sept. 29 said that “Because Plaintiffs have not pleaded their direct evidence with sufficient detail and because they have not pleaded parallel conduct sufficient to support an inference of a price-fixing conspiracy,” he was dismissing the case. Several other cases had been consolidated with the R-CALF case and were included in the dismissal.


When we wrote about examining this Complaint in detail in 2019, we sarcastically ended our “analysis” with this quip, “Gee, what an airtight case.”


The Minnesota District Court judge who dismissed the case didn’t put it that way. But he did refer to “little evidence” regarding a meatpacker conspiracy to manipulate fed cattle prices and the Complaint’s resorting to “group pleading” about how the market reacted.


A big allegation by R-CALF was that the packers had conspired to cut slaughter numbers so that they could cut costs, drive cattle prices down and make more money. How the packers were to cover fixed costs with less revenue and still make money wasn’t addressed. We’ve mentioned before that R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard is a master at cherry-picking data and dates to try to prove a point. The judge picked up on that, too.


His opinion notes that the most specific allegations all relate to a single year, 2015, when the major packers reduced slaughter volume. He added that the case said little about the ensuing years when volume increased.


Of course, we know prices were up through 2014 and part of 2015 largely because cattle supplies had dropped...



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