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• The Los Angeles Times reports that “food service giant Sodexo Inc. has filed suit against the nation's largest egg trade group and some leading egg farmers, alleging they perpetrated a decade-long scheme to artificially inflate egg prices.

The civil complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, claims that an egg cartel conspired to limit domestic supply by killing off hens under the guise of treating the remaining animals more humanely by giving them more cage room. The alleged scheme resulted in as much as a 40% increase in U.S. wholesale egg prices in 2008, according to the lawsuit.”

According to the story, the suit “marks the latest salvo in a massive antitrust battle forming over the price of eggs. Egg producers say federal law allows them to work collaboratively. U.S. grocers, food suppliers and distributors claim that the industry illegally colluded to manipulate the market.”

• The Los Angeles Times reports that Del Monte Foods has said that “it did not receive any alternative buyout bids during its go-shop period, clearing the way for its $4-billion acquisition by a group of investors that includes its former owner ... An investor group led by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. — which briefly owned Del Monte — Vestar Capital Partners and Centerview Partners agreed to buy the food maker in November for $19 a share. They will also assume $1.3 billion in debt.”

Reuters reports that US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack “told the largest U.S. farm group on Monday that farmers could see less government interference if they find a way for traditional and genetically modified crops to co-exist.”

According to the story, “farm groups and the biotechnology industry are skeptical of Vilsack's ‘co-existence’ proposal. He launched it last month at the same time the Agriculture Department said planting restrictions might accompany deregulation of biotech alfalfa.

“Vilsack says the biotech alfalfa, developed by Monsanto Co, is safe. An even-handed compromise among growers would better than repeat litigation over rules for biotech crops, he said. The alfalfa dispute went to the Supreme Court and a U.S. appeals court is hearing a case on biotech sugar seeds.

“Most U.S. farmers oppose government intrusion on their property.”

• The Wall Street Journal reports that “milk alternatives - creamy liquids derived from non-dairy sources - are on the rise, especially in households where people are lactose-intolerant or dairy-allergic. The food industry is quickly ramping up the options, offering milks derived from soybeans, rice, coconut, hazelnuts and even hemp. The sales growth follows decades of slow, steady decline in consumption of cow's milk in the U.S.”

One result has been that “two brands - Silk Pure Almond, from Dean Foods Co., of Dallas, and Almond Breeze, from Blue Diamond Growers, of Sacramento, Calif. - are waging a Coke-and-Pepsi style market-share battle in the supermarket. Almond milk's appearance in the refrigerated dairy case in 2010 helped fuel 13% growth in milk alternatives, a category where sales were flat the year before, according to SymphonyIRI Group, a Chicago market research firm.”
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