As a result of the attack, large US and Canadian meat plants canceled shifts Tuesday, threatening to disrupt meat supply and further inflate food prices.
The White House has contacted major meat processors across the US to notify them of the incident and assess “any impact on supply,” principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said aboard Air Force One. She added that the FBI is investigating the hacking. “The President has directed the administration to determine what we can do to mitigate any impacts as they may become necessary,” she said.
JBS said Monday evening that it shut its North American and Australian IT networks down after the company realized Sunday it had been hit by an attack. “The company is not aware of any evidence at this time that any customer, supplier or employee data has been compromised or misused as a result of the situation,” JBS said in a statement. “Resolution of the incident will take time, which may delay certain transactions with customers and suppliers.”
JBS controls about 20 percent of the slaughtering capacity for US cattle and hogs, according to industry estimates. It’s unclear who carried out the cyberattack, but the White House said the criminal group behind the hacking is likely based in Russia.
JBS said its backup servers were not affected, and it’s working with a response team to restore its systems as soon as possible. The company has felt an immediate impact from the attack, halting all of its beef and lamb kills across Australia, according to industry site Beef Central. Bloomberg News reported that some shifts have also been canceled in the US and Canada, citing union officials.
Two kill and fabrication shifts had been canceled at JBS’s beef plant in Greeley, Colorado, due to the cyberattack, representatives of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Local 7 told Reuters. JBS Beef in Cactus, Texas, also said on Facebook it would not run on Tuesday — updating an early post that had said the plant would run as normal.
The United States Cattlemen’s Association, an industry group, said on Twitter that it had reports of JBS redirecting livestock haulers who arrived at plants and were scheduled to unload animals for slaughter.
The cyberattack comes just weeks after the operator of the biggest US oil pipeline was similarly paralyzed by a cyberattack orchestrated by the Russia-based criminal group DarkSide. That attack had a sweeping effect on Americans, sending gas prices soaring and spurring panic buying across the Southeast.
The attack on JBS threatens to further stifle an industry that’s already struggling to keep up with demand. US prices of beef and chicken have soared in recent months amid shortages. It’s unclear what kind of an impact the cyberattack will have on consumers. JBS representatives did not immediately return requests for more information.
JBS’ Sao Paulo-based parent company recorded about $75 billion in sales in the first quarter of 2021, with US operations making up about half of that, according to company filings.
Matt Dalgleish, manager of commodity markets insights at Thomas Elder Markets, said the shutdown could ripple throughout global trade.
“If it’s a short term scenario, just a week or something that they’re offline, then it’s probably just a minimal hiccup,” Dalgleish said. But “given the size of JBS globally, if they were offline for any more than a week, then we’re going to see disruption to supply chains for sure.” ✪