Cyberattack temporarily shuts down JBS meat processing plants, including one in Montgomery County

Maggie Kent Image
Wednesday, June 2, 2021
Cyberattack temporarily shuts down local JBS meat processing plant
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Last weekend, a ransom wear attack, with origins in Russia, targeted JBS' computer servers.

SOUDERTON, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Last weekend, a ransomwear attack with origins in Russia targeted JBS' computer servers. JBS is the second-largest supplier of beef, pork and chicken in the nation.

"With food production, computerized systems are used in most aspects of it. We need to identify where these vulnerabilities are," said Dr. Gary Althouse, associate dean of sustainable agriculture at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.

Experts say the bottleneck, if only for a few days, will pain farmers more than consumers.

"I think it should be pretty minimal just because of the supply that is out there," said Althouse.

RELATED: Largest meat producer JBS getting back online after cyberattack

On Tuesday, the CEO of JBS said its meat processing plants in the U.S. would be back online Wednesday. That includes the one packaging plant in Souderton, Pennsylvania.

About 400 Souderton processing plant workers returned to work on Wednesday, with the remaining 1,100 heading back to work Thursday, with minimal disruption.

"We started notifying our members they are to report back tomorrow," said Wendell Young of UFCW Local 1776. "While it affected production for a full day, and part of another day, we expect to be back to normal very quickly."

For farmers, that news couldn't come soon enough.

"You might get hit with this double whammy where you're taking on the extra expense of feeding that livestock longer. And when you do sell it, it's at a reduced price because it's a lower grade," said Liam Migdail, communications director of Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.

The experts likened this temporary shutdown to the massive plant shutdowns during the height of the pandemic.

During that time, plants were shut for weeks, causing a shortage of supply and rising prices. These JBS plants were shut down for days, so don't expect to see anything like that inside the grocery store.