Industry News – Ransomware Disrupts Meat Plants in Latest Attack on Critical U.S. Business


A JBS plant in Minnesota. Credit…Bing Guan/Reuters

All of JBS’s beef plants in the U.S. were shuttered on Tuesday, and many of its pork and poultry plants were affected, according to a union and Facebook posts meant for employees.

June 1, 2021

From  the New York Times – By Julie Creswell, Nicole Perlroth and Noam Scheiber

A cyberattack on the world’s largest meat processor forced the shutdown of nine beef plants in the United States on Tuesday, according to union officials, and disrupted production at poultry and pork plants. The attack could upset the nation’s meat markets and raises new questions about the vulnerability of critical American businesses.

The company, JBS, said the majority of its plants would reopen on Wednesday. But even one day’s disruption at JBS could “significantly impact” wholesale beef prices, according to analysts at Daily Livestock Report.

The breach at JBS was a ransomware attack, the White House said — the second recent such attack to freeze up a critical U.S. business operation. Last month, a ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline, which transports gas to nearly half the East Coast, triggered gas and jet-fuel shortages and panic buying.

JBS, which is based in Brazil and accounts for one-fifth of the daily U.S. cattle harvest, said in a statement late Tuesday that it had made “significant progress resolving the cyberattack.”

“Our systems are coming back online, and we are not sparing any resources to fight this threat,” Andre Nogueira, the chief executive of JBS USA, said in the statement.

The Department of Agriculture said Tuesday that it was working with other producers to help minimize any shortages.

All nine JBS beef plants in the United States were shut down on Tuesday, according to the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which represents workers at JBS’s beef, pork and poultry factories. The company’s poultry and pork plants in the United States posted on Facebook that they had canceled shifts or altered production scheduled for Monday or Tuesday, with some of them citing “I.T. issues.”

In addition to the company’s U.S. plants, the shutdowns affected 2,500 workers at a beef plant in Brooks, Alberta, according to Scott Payne, a spokesman for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401 in Canada. “All shifts were canceled yesterday,” he said on Tuesday. “The morning shift was canceled today. But the afternoon shift has been rescheduled to operate today.”

Even as the plants started to come online, at least one beef plant delayed the start of production on Wednesday and another altered one of its shifts, according to posts from the plants.

As restaurants and retail customers have started buying beef heading into summer, the wholesale market has been “extremely tight,” the analysts for Daily Livestock Report wrote in a report released on Tuesday. They noted that a small restaurant in southern Utah had started to charge an extra $4 for dishes that contained carne asada.

“Retailers and beef processors are coming from a long weekend and need to catch up with orders and make sure to fill the meat case,” the analysts wrote. “If they suddenly get a call saying that product may not deliver tomorrow or this week, it will create very significant challenges in keeping plants in operation and the retail case stocked up.”


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