A CYBERATTACK on the world’s largest meat producer which has sparked fears over a global shortage “likely came from Russia”.
JBS has been forced to shut down factories across Australia, the United States and Canada which handle tens of thousands of cattle every day.
The White House said today the attack originated from a criminal organization likely based in Russia.
Spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said the United States has contacted Russia’s government about the matter and that the FBI is investigating.
She said: “The White House has offered assistance to JBS and our team at the Department of Agriculture have spoken to their leadership several times in the last day.
“JBS notified the administration that the ransom demand came from a criminal organization likely based in Russia.
“The White House is engaging directly with the Russian government on this matter and delivering the message that responsible states do not harbour ransomware criminals.”
The White House is engaging directly with the Russian government on this matter and delivering the message that responsible states do not harbor ransomware criminals
Karine Jean-Pierre, White House spokeswoman
The five biggest beef plants in the US — which combined process 22,500 daily — have suspended livestock slaughter following the attack on the company’s computer networks.
Those outages alone have wiped out nearly a fifth of America’s production.
And operations across Australia — which exports up to 75 per cent of its red meat products — are at a standstill, meaning there is a risk to worldwide supplies.
The company said it was working to resolve Monday’s incident but has not indicated the nature of the attack or why meat production is being impacted.
JBS said in a statement: “On Sunday, May 30, JBS USA determined that it was the target of an organised cybersecurity attack, affecting some of the servers supporting its North American and Australian IT systems.”
It comes at a time of rising meat prices as China increases imports, food costs rise, and plants continue to face labour shortages that started during the pandemic.
And concerns are growing that the cyberattack could push beef prices up by tightening supplies, according to Brad Lyle, chief financial officer for consultancy Partners for Production Agriculture.
Matthew Wiegand, a risk management consultant and commodity broker at FuturesOne in Nebraska, said any impact on consumers would depend on how long production is impacted.
He added: “If it lingers for multiple days, you see some food service shortages.
“The good thing is that this happened after Memorial Day. You are on the downhill side of summer demand and summer bookings.”
‘IT COULD GO ON FOR WEEKS’
And Jon Condon from Beef Central fears the chaos could last for weeks.
He told ABC Radio Brisbane: “At this point, nobody knows.
“It could be a day, it could be a week, it could be multiple weeks.
“The longer it goes, the worse the situation in terms of supply and disruption.”
He added that McDonald’s, as well as supermarkets, will be the most immediately impacted customers due to their need for consistent supply.
JBS controls about 20 per cent of the slaughtering capacity for US cattle and hogs, according to industry estimates.
Plants impacted by the attack include JBS beef plants in Greeley, Colorado, and Cactus, Texas.
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 to unload animals for slaughter.
A JBS beef plant in Grand Island, Michigan, said only workers in maintenance and shipping were scheduled to work on Tuesday due to the cyberattack.
And JBS Canada said in a Facebook post that shifts had been cancelled at its plant in Brooks, Alberta, on Monday – and one shift so far had been cancelled on Tuesday.
A representative in Sao Paulo said the company’s Brazilian operations were not impacted.
The JBS cyberattack spurred a new round of support for improved cyber security.
Congressman Rick Crawford, an Arkansas Republican, called for a bipartisan effort to secure food and cyber security.
“Cyber security is synonymous with national security, and so is food security,” he wrote on Twitter.
JBS reported the latest incident just a few weeks after a ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline — the largest fuel pipeline in the United States —crippled fuel delivery for several days in the US Southeast.