The Justice Department yesterday accused Perdue Farms, Inc. and its chairman, Frank Perdue, of cutting off supplies of Purdue chickens to New York City metropolitan-area poultry wholesalers who handled other chickens.
A civil complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn on behalf of the Agriculture Department accuses the Maryland firm of unfair trade practices and acting to restrain commerce first by threatening various poultry dealers and then by making good the threats to cut off their Purdue chicken supply.
As a remedy, the Justice Department asks the court to bar Purdue from such actions in the future and to order Purdue to resume supplying Perdue chickens to distributors whose supplies were cancelled.
The suit comes at a time when the poultry firm is under pressure on other fronts, too. The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (AFL-CIO) has launched a nationwide boycott of Perdue chickens to protest what the union considers attempts to suppress union organizing.
A Perdue official said no one could be reached to comment on the Justice Department complaint.
According to the complaint, Frank Perdue, whose company dominates the premium poultry business in the New York area, told several poultry distributors in the area that he would stop selling them Purdue products if they continued to deal in products sold by certain unnamed competitors.
The threats covered a period from approximately June 1, 1976, until now, according to the complaint which called the actions an attempt to foreclose access to the marketplace by competitors of Purdue Farms.
Later Purdue made good his threats to distributors who kept selling competitors' chickens, while he continued to sell Perdue products to dealers who heeded his warning and stopped, according to the complaint.
Last August the West Side Poultry Co. of New York filed a $35 million antitrust suit against Perdue Farms Inc., accusing it of trying to monopolize the name-brand chicken market through similar tactics.
According to that suit, Perdue demanded that West Side distribute only Perdue chickens and stop selling "Cookin' Good" chickens. When West Side refused, according to the suit, Perdue stopped delivering its chickens to the distributor, intimidated truck drivers who worked for the firm and offered Perdue chickens to a competitor at extremely low prices.