No One Knows How Much U.S. Meat Costs After Cyberattack Jams Report

The price of meat in the U.S. on Tuesday was a mystery.

A cyberattack against JBS SA, the world’s biggest meat producer, not only succeeded in crippling slaughter plants across the U.S. It also prevented the U.S. Department of Agriculture from releasing wholesale prices for beef and pork that agriculture markets rely on daily.

The agency is delaying the reports citing “packer submission issues,” since disclosures could potentially reveal proprietary information about JBS’s competitors.

Large plant closures generally send meat prices soaring. In the U.S., JBS ranks No. 1 for beef production, No. 2 in pork and chicken.

“With JBS being down temporarily, I would think wholesale pork prices would shoot up rather sharply,” said Dan Norcini, an independent hog trader in Idaho.

Meat and livestock markets are still reeling from slaughterhouse disruptions last year, when the coronavirus pandemic sickened thousands and killed hundreds of U.S. food-plant workers. Even before the cyberattack, wholesale beef was near record prices achieved during the pandemic, with demand surging for meat.

There was at least one hint that meat prices were on the rise amid the cyberattack. The CME Group launched a new pork contract last year in the wake of the pandemic disruptions, and the futures Tuesday were up by 3.6% to a record of $1.3135 a pound.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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