Meat Shortage Fears Mount after Cyberattack Shuts Down Meatpacking Plants
20% of US beef producing capacity was crippled by hack by 'Russian cybercriminals'
Fears of meat shortages across America are mounting after Brazil-based JBS, the world's largest meat producer, has shut down all of its US-based beef plants following a cyberattack.
According to officials from the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, the shutdowns impacted all nine beef plants, located in Arizona, Texas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wisconsin, Utah, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.
UFCW represents over 25,000 JBS employees.
JBS's US-based pork plants are currently still operational, however.
The US is now expected to be hit with beef shortages and price rises as a result of the attack.
The White House has blamed the hack on "Russian cybercriminals."
JBS - which supplies 20 percent of all beef and pork in the US - warned the Memorial Day weekend hack could disrupt its supply chains and increase prices up to 30 percent.
The company received a demand from "a criminal organization likely based in Russia" following the attack that has affected its operations in Australia and North America, White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said on Tuesday.
The Department of Agriculture has asked other major meat processors to increase capacity and mitigate potential beef supply issues due to the country's reliance on JBS production lines.
All nine of the company's beef plants in the country have shut down as a result of the cyberattack, according to the United & Food and Commercial Workers, which represents employees at the plants.
It is unclear when those plants will resume operations.
The company has two plants in Nebraska, and one each in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Utah, Texas, and Arizona.
"We have cybersecurity plans in place to address these types of issues... the vast majority of our beef, pork, poultry, and prepared foods plants will be operational tomorrow," Andre Nogueira, JBS chief in the United States, said in a statement Tuesday.
The company statement did not say if any ransom had been paid.
The attack also caused JBS's Australian operations to shut down on Monday. JBS sells meat under 52 different brand names in the US, including Certified Angus Beef, 5 Star Reserve, Blue Ribbon Angus Beef, and Pilgrim's.
A spokesman said the firm notified the Biden administration and that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has launched an inquiry.
"On Sunday, May 30, JBS USA determined that it was the target of an organized cybersecurity attack, affecting some of the servers supporting its North American and Australian IT systems," it said in a Monday statement.
The Department of Agriculture said in a statement: "USDA has reached out to several major meat processors in the United States to ensure they are aware of the situation, encouraging them to accommodate additional capacity where possible and to stress the importance of keeping supply moving."
The Biden administration, meanwhile, has reportedly offered assistance to JBS.
White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that the administration is "engaging directly with the Russian government on this matter and delivering the message that responsible states do not harbor ransomware criminals."