By Fabiana Batista
JBS SA, the world’s largest meat producer, said its U.S. unit is boosting worker pay at beef plants and investing more than $130 million to increase processing capacity.
The Brazil-based company is expanding capacity at two of its major beef processing facilities in Grand Island and Omaha, Nebraska, JBS said in a statement Wednesday. The $150 million in annualized pay increases is for workers across nine beef plants.
The announcement comes as pressure mounts on the industry to share more of its profits with ranchers and workers. The expansions lift capacity by almost 300,000 head of cattle per year, providing “increased access and opportunity for the more than 1,100 local cattle producers who support the facilities,” JBS said.
The rise in pay also follows a hit to the meat industry last year from the coronavirus, with thousands of U.S. food-plant workers getting sick and hundreds dying. Absenteeism at some plants in the industry has been high, and companies have been raising wages to lure workers.
“Our longstanding commitment to the U.S. beef industry and continued reinvestment in its success will help ensure that beef remains at the center of plates around the world for years to come,” Tim Schellpeper, president of the JBS USA Fed Beef business unit, said in the statement.
The JBS USA Grand Island facility is a two-shift beef-processing plant in central Nebraska employing more than 3,600 people, with capacity to process more than 1.4 million cattle per year. The Omaha facility is a single shift, beef-processing plant employing more than 650.