U.S. prosecutors are investigating poultry processors over criminal allegations that they colluded to prop up prices.
The Justice Department disclosed the inquiry Monday by intervening in a court case involving numerous chicken processors, distributors and sellers.
The prosecutors asked a federal judge to halt certain depositions and discovery for six months “to protect the grand jury’s investigation.”
The precise scope of the investigation was unclear. But the case stems from allegations that poultry processors illegally squelched competition by collectively fixing prices, lowering production and sharing data.
The civil case, filed initially by chicken purchaser Maplevale Farms, targets chicken companies controlling 90% of the wholesale broiler chicken market, which represents most of the industry’s sales.
Defendants, including Tyson Foods, Sanderson Farms and Koch Foods, have denied the allegations.
Plant-based nuggets?: Tyson Foods moves into meat alternatives
Plant-based or animal-based meats?: How they compare
Tyson Foods, the nation’s largest producer of meat, in February 2017 disclosed a federal investigation into the company in connection with the allegations.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.