One of the United States' largest egg suppliers is using its flagship product to settle a price-fixing lawsuit.
The office of New York Attorney General Letitia James announced April 1 that James had secured 1.2 million eggs from Hillendale Farms in a move that resolves an August 2020 lawsuit she levied against the company for illegally price gouging eggs during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Per James, the agreement states that Hillendale will refrain from any further price gouging, and will donate 1.2 million eggs, or 100,000 cartons, to food banks throughout New York state. Those food banks are distributing the eggs to thousands of food pantries, soup kitchens and homeless shelters.
“As New Yorkers scrambled to stock up on food, one of the nation’s largest egg producers raised prices to unprecedented levels and made it harder for New Yorkers to feed their families,” James said in a statement. “Hillandale may have run afoul of our state’s price gouging laws and hatched a plan that targeted our state’s most vulnerable in its darkest hour, but, today, we’re delivering 1.2 million eggs to feed hungry New Yorkers and make things right. New Yorkers can trust that I will always stand up for our state’s working families.”
According to James, Hillandale price gouged eggs sold to major grocery stores, US military facilities and wholesale food distributors throughout New York from March through at least April 2020, noting that the exponentially higher prices charged during just those two months netted the company millions of dollars and that a sizable portion of that activity's victims were grocery low-income communities.
Specifically, James' lawsuit said the prices Hillandale charged Western Beef Supermarket went from $0.59 to $1.10 for a dozen large white eggs over January to early March 2020 to $1.49 on March 15 and then progressively up to $2.93 per dozen. The suit said Hillandale enacted similar price gouging on eggs sold to Stop & Shop, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Associated Supermarkets and at the commissary stores at the US Military Academy at West Point and at the US military bases at Fort Hamilton and at Fort Drum.
The agreement resolves claims brought by AG James against all six Hillandale Farms companies in the lawsuit, including Hillandale Farms Corp.; Hillandale Farms East, Inc.; Hillandale Farms of PA, Inc.; Hillandale Farms Conn, LLC; Hillandale Farms of Delaware, Inc.; and Hillandale-Gettysburg, L.P.
Buffalo, NY-based Spectrum News reported that Hillandale acknowledged the resolution in a statement:
"Although it is important to note that the approach to pricing commodity eggs in New York has remained consistent for decades, the resolution of this matter reflects Hillandale Farms’ deep concern about the communities we serve. We welcomed the opportunity to take steps to benefit New York’s most vulnerable families and support ongoing hunger relief in the state. As we have done for generations, we will continue to focus on producing quality eggs, operating with honesty and integrity, and maintaining the highest standards for our team, customers and animals."