A major cyberattack on one of the world's largest meat producers is generating concerns that consumers could see both price spikes and possible shortages in the category.
According to the Seattle Times, the ransomware attack on meat titan JBS occurred over the weekend, closing an unknown number of plants temporarily. The Wall Street Journal has noted that JBS has since reopened most of the affected factories, and JBS released a statement saying that shipping has resumed at nearly all of its locations.
Still, the damage caused by the ransomware attack has been done, as hackers temporarily disabled production at plants responsible for 25% of US beef processing, as well as a fifth of the country's pork. Chicken production facilities were also affected by the cyberattack.
A crazy example of how modern tech can disrupt food - a ransomware cyberattack targeted JBS, one of the largest beef producers, and could have halted up to 20% of US beef production. @foodbeast https://t.co/RvUf6AxOPc
— Constantine "Costa" Spyrou (@Constantine_Spy) June 2, 2021
This has led to a push in wholesale prices for meat, with beef prices for some cuts climbing approximately 1.6%, or up to $5.60 per 100 pounds. Trey Malone, an assistant professor of agriculture at Michigan State University, also told Columbus outlet WRBL that overall, beef prices could go up 1-2%, chicken up 1.5%, and pork up 2-3% in the coming days.
The chicken plant closures also led Publix to announce that chicken shortages could happen intermittently over the next few days, as the Wall Street Journal reported.
While wholesale prices have gone up, grocery stores may not always convert that into increases in retail price, meaning consumers may not see a price increase despite the jump in cost. The USDA is also encouraging other meat suppliers to increase capacity where possible to offset the loss in production.
“The White House has offered assistance to JBS” after the meat processing company was targeted by hackers, deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre says. JBS told the WH they received a ransom demand from a criminal organization "likely based in Russia."
— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) June 1, 2021
Globally, JBS operations in Canada and Australia were also affected, meaning production capacity decreases and price increases for meat there are also expected.
JBS has notified the White House that their ransomware demand came from a criminal organization "likely based in Russia." Principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters in a press gaggle that the Biden administration is "directly engaging with the Russian government" about the cyberattack, and that the FBI is also investigating.