About 400 workers returned to work at JBS’s beef plant in Souderton, Pennsylvania, compared to about 1,500 who would work on a typical day, said Wendell Young IV, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776, which represents Workers. on the floor. A JBS beef plant in Cactus, Texas, canceled the work of many employees scheduled for one of their shifts on Wednesday, according to a Facebook post aimed at workers.
Mr. Young added that the company had told the union that the plant would be operating basically normally on Thursday, although the workers’ start times would be delayed by a few hours.
JBS has not said whether it has paid its attackers and did not respond to requests for comment.
The disruptions come at a time when beef, chicken and pork prices have skyrocketed. Meatpacking plants are struggling to keep up with high demand, largely due to the same labor shortage issues that restaurants and other industries have struggled with during the pandemic.
“We have this backlog in slaughterhouses, and that happens when demand, both domestic and export, has been exceptional,” said Don Close, senior analyst for animal protein at RaboResearch.
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In recent months, reopened restaurants began ordering beef, pork and poultry again and people began gathering and grilling outside as vaccination levels increased and the weather warmed. Increased demand, combined with hiring challenges, has caused wholesale meat prices to skyrocket 49 percent since mid-March and cut meat prices to skyrocket 64 percent, according to the Department of Agriculture.
“Everyone suddenly woke up to the reality that we didn’t have enough product,” said Altin Kalo, chief economist at Steiner Consulting Group, which analyzes and creates forecasts for the protein industry.
Mark Lauritsen, the international vice president who oversees meatpacking for the food workers union, said that many meatpacking plants in the United States have been 10 to 20 percent below full-staff levels, but that the situation was gradually improving as the union negotiated wage increases with companies like JBS.