DALLAS (AP) _ The nation's largest family-owned bakery has been ordered to pay a $10 million fine for fixing bread prices.

U.S. District Judge Jerry Buchmeyer on Thursday sentenced Mrs Baird's Bakeries to the maximum penalty allowed, rejecting the company's evidence and arguments in favor of a reduced fine.

Buchmeyer also sentenced the company to five years' probation and ordered it to perform 2,500 hours of community service.

Company attorney R.H. Wallace said Mrs Baird's will appeal the sentence.

The 88-year-old Fort Worth, Texas, company was found guilty earlier this year of price-fixing in east Texas from 1977 to 1993. It was acquitted of a similar count involving price-fixing in west Texas. Carroll Baird, a former company president and the grandson of the founder, was acquitted on two counts.

During the presentencing hearing, Mrs Baird's chief executive and president, Larry Wheeler, told the judge that if forced to pay the maximum fine it would mean the company would not be able to remain competitive or be able to move into new product development.

Federal attorney Gary Rosenberg told the judge he believed about $218 million of bread products were sold by Mrs Baird's in east Texas between 1977 and 1993 and argued for the maximum fine.

Buchmeyer ordered Mrs Baird's _ which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March _ to pay $1 million immediately and the rest in monthly installments.

He said the community service, which could involve such things as handing out bread at shelters, must be completed during the five years' probation.

Mrs Baird's was founded in 1908, when Ninnie Baird started baking bread for her Fort Worth neighbors to support her eight children. The company now employs more than 3,000 people and has 11 Texas plants.