Kroger Leads Lawsuit Over Egg Prices

A group of grocery and convenience store chains has joined the Kroger Co. in a lawsuit alleging a price-fixing conspiracy by many of the country’s largest egg producers and their trade groups.

Walgreen Co., Safeway Inc. and Albertsons are among the retailers who agree with Cincinnati-based Kroger that United Egg Producers, United Egg Association, United States Egg Marketers Inc. and 14 egg producers agreed to reduce the supply of eggs in order to artificially increase prices, the Cincinnati Inquirer reported. The plaintiffs claim this resulted in a price increase of 45 percent between August 2007 and March 2008.

The lawsuit, filed Nov. 16 in federal court in Pennsylvania, follows several similar antitrust complaints against members within the egg industry that began in April. a group of restaurants and food processors has filed suit against many of the same entities, and Pittsburgh’s Giant Eagle filed its own lawsuit Dec. 17.

Kroger’s customers who purchased eggs had no other substitute for the product, forcing them to pay the higher prices, said Kroger spokesman Brendon Cull. United Egg Producers has repeatedly denied the claims, insisting the supply reduction came as a result of new animal welfare standards which restricted the number of hens per cage.

Those standards are endorsed by the Food Marketing Institute and retailers such as Kroger, the Inquirer reported. UEP has declined to comment on the lawsuit.

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