President Trump will sign an executive order Tuesday meant to stave off a shortage of chicken, pork, and other meat on American supermarket shelves because of the coronavirus. The order will use the Defense Production Act to classify meat processing as critical infrastructure to keep production plants open. The order comes after industry leaders warned that consumers could see meat shortages in a matter of days after workers at major facilities tested positive for the virus. A senior White House official said the administration was working to prevent a situation in which a majority of processing plants shut down for a period of time, which could lead to an 80% drop in the availability of meat in supermarkets. The official spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity to discuss the order before its release.
Trump told reporters Tuesday that "there’s plenty of supply,” but that supply chains had hit what he called "sort of a legal roadblock more than anything else." Two of the nation’s biggest pork processing plants are currently closed. GOP Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota had written a letter to Trump asking him to use the DPA to declare the food supply industry an essential industry, warning that consumers would see a meat shortage in a matter of days akin to the earlier panic over toilet paper. The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union said last week that 13 food-processing and meatpacking union workers in the US have died and that an estimated 5,000 are sick or have been exposed to the virus while working near an infected colleague.
(Read more meat