Claire

Middleman

That’s not all, folks. In November, I reported on a controversy over the viability of the Georgia Dock price index, which U.S. poultry producers (and processors, sellers, and buyers) had been using to set wholesale and retail prices since the Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA) began compiling them in 1972. Questions surrounding the Dock’s reliability stemmed from allegations made by Arty Schronce, the bulletin’s director, to the GDA, that the weekly price data submitted to the index from some of the nation’s top producers—including Sanderson Farms and Tyson Foods—was inaccurate. (The Washington Post published Schronce’s memo in November. Read it and try to get Milton from Office Space out of your head.)

“A deviation in supermarket chicken prices of that magnitude would have cost U.S. grocery shoppers billions of dollars in recent years”

Sanderson and Tyson were also named as defendants in a class action filed in September alleging that the companies, along with Pilgrim’s Pride, had been colluding to drive chicken prices up since at least 2008 (all three denied the allegation). According to the Post, Dock prices had risen as much as 20 percent above a similar index published by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), for at least the last two years. “A deviation in supermarket chicken prices of that magnitude would have cost U.S. grocery shoppers billions of dollars in recent years,” wrote the Post’s Peter Whoriskey in his November piece on the flap.

In response to the uncertainty surrounding the Dock, GDA indefinitely suspended the bulletin in late December (this came after USDA stopped publishing it in August). But, as Food Business News reported last week, GDA has released “a new poultry pricing index called the Georgia Premium Poultry Pricing Index (GPPPI), which includes a series of producer price indexes that measure the aggregate change in the price of poultry sold on contract over 1-month, 6-month and 12-month base periods.” For those of us who need that in English (me), that means the G-three-p-I measures the change in price, rather than just the price itself, which should give producers a more accurate picture of price fluctuations over three different periods.

And I think I’m going to create a hashtag for this one (#sometimesittakesfortyyears): “All data provided will be subject to verification through a random review, done through a prescribed process that will confirm submitted prices and quantities with the buyers.” So says GDA on its website about an idea (and index) whose time has more than come.

Kate Cox

Kate Cox covers the secret life of the supply chain as editor for The New Food Economy. In her former life, she was a freelance health reporter for radio and text. Follow her @thekatecox