One of America's top chicken industry CEOs could be caged for up to 10 years as part of a federal antitrust investigation. Pilgrim's Pride CEO Jayson Penn was indicted Wednesday along with former company vice president Roger Austin for alleged price-fixing, the Wall Street Journal reports. Mikell Fries, president of Claxton Poultry Farms, and vice president Scott Brady were also indicted. Prosecutors say the men, part of a "network of suppliers and co-conspirators," conspired to fix prices and rig bids on the "broiler chickens" that were sold to grocery stores and restaurants between 2012 and 2017, reports CNN. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
"Particularly in times of global crisis, the division remains committed to prosecuting crimes intended to raise the prices Americans pay for food," Makan Delrahim, assistant attorney general for the Department of Justice's Antitrust Division, said in a statement. "Executives who cheat American consumers, restaurateurs, and grocers, and compromise the integrity of our food supply will be held responsible for their actions." Shares in Pilgrim's Pride fell 16% after the indictment and other chicken producers, including Tyson, also saw major drops. Penn is the highest-profile exec to be indicted by the antitrust division since former Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon, who died in a car crash the day after he was indicted in 2016, Bloomberg reports. (Read more chicken stories.)