Meat Shortages Could Be on the Way, Thanks to a Cyber Attack

JBS, which provides the majority of America's beef and pork, was the target of a cyberattack that could affect many of its markets.


Meat-lovers may be in for a surprise at the grocery store after meat supply company JBS came under attack by hackers last weekend.

According to the BBC, JBS is the world's largest meat processing company, supplying supermarkets and McDonald's restaurants around the world. It processes almost one-quarter of the US' beef and one-fifth of its pork supply. 

Following the hack, plants in Australia, Canada, and the US were forced to shut down temporarily. Operations are expected to resume as normal in time, but the effects of this cyber attack could lead to price increases and meat shortages. 

"Supermarkets and other large end-users like the McDonald’s burger pattie supply network will be some of the most immediately impacted customers, due to their need for consistent supply, if the current stoppage lasts for any significant length of time," writes Beef Central, which covers the Australian beef industry.

David Littleproud, Australian Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management, told CNN Business that he doesn't think the country will suffer a red meat shortage. It's worth noting, however, that JBS accounts for about a quarter of Australia's red meat processing. The Australian Meat Industry Council said in a statement "there is no indication whatsoever that this cyber attack will cause a major impact on Australian domestic red meat and pork products supply." However, Littleproud also told CNN Business that meat processing facilities weren't operating at normal capacity, which could be an issue. 

"We are obviously concerned that there are today limited operations at JBS facilities in New South Wales and Victoria," he explained. "Some work may resume in Queensland tomorrow. We're hoping that they will get back to full capacity soon, but there is no definitive timeline."

The US, meanwhile, is focused on investigating the attack. Per CNN, the White House believes the attack was carried out by a criminal organization based in Russia. An official from the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union revealed early this week that all  US JBS beef plants were shut down. The company itself said in a statement that it planned to reopen "the vast majority" of food plants by Wednesday. The statement also said that "JBS USA and Pilgrim's were able to ship product from nearly all of its facilities to supply customers."

Despite their confidence that it'll all work out, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has reached out to meat processors across the country to ask that they try to accommodate the additional capacity to maintain the supply chain. The government organization has been meeting with food, agriculture, and retail organizations in an effort to "underscore the importance of maintaining close communication and working together to ensure a stable, plentiful food supply."

So, will you have to go meatless at your July 4 barbecue? Not necessarily. Meat shortages and rising prices will depend on how quickly the fallout from this cyberattack is resolved.

"Even one day of disruption will significantly impact the beef market and wholesale beef prices," Steiner Consulting Group, which focuses on commodity prices, shared in a release, per CNN. "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. If they suddenly get a call saying that product may not deliver tomorrow or this week. It will create very significant challenges."

Now might be a good time to get into Impossible Burgers.

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Caitlyn Hitt is Daria IRL. Don't take our word for it—find her on Twitter @nyltiaccc.