Tyson plans to acquire Hillshire Brands Company, but the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and three state attorneys general are saying “not so fast.”
Hillshire is a major purchaser of sows, which it primarily uses to produce sausage sold under the Jimmy Dean and Hillshire Farm brands. Tyson also owns a sow-purchasing business called Heinold Hog Markets, which purchases sows directly from farmers. Mergers, acquisitions and consolidation in the meat packing and processing sector typically raises concerns over loss of competition in the market, and in this case, the DOJ believes that if Tyson acquires Hillshire and retains Heinold Hog Markets, there would indeed be a significant loss of competition for purchases of sows from farmers, with the combined companies accounting for about one-third of all sow purchases. “Farmers are entitled to competitive markets for their products. Today’s proposed settlement will help ensure that hog breeders in the United States will continue to receive the benefits of vigorous competition when selling sows,” said Bill Baer, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Antitrust Division at the DOJ.
According to news reports on Wednesday, Tyson and Hillshire have agreed to the proposed settlement.
Three state attorneys general from major pork-producing states, Illinois Iowa, and Missouri, joined the department in the civil lawsuit filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to block the proposed transaction. At the same time, the department filed a proposed settlement that, if approved by the court, would resolve the competitive concerns alleged in the department’s lawsuit.
The proposed settlement, along with the department’s competitive impact statement, will be published in the Federal Register. Any person may submit written comments concerning the proposed settlement during a 60-day comment period to William H. Stallings, Chief, Transportation, Energy, and Agriculture Section, Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice, 450 5th Street, N.W., Suite 8000, Washington, D.C. 20530. At the conclusion of the 60-day comment period, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia may enter the proposed final judgment upon finding that it is in the public interest, according to a DOJ release.