Last week, President Donald Trump declared meat-processing plants and suppliers are critical infrastructure in an Executive Order backed by the Defense Production Act. This order aims to prevent the possibility of disruptions in the food supply chain by urging the meat sector to continue operations.
“It is important that processors of beef, pork, and poultry in the food supply chain continue operating and fulfilling orders to ensure a continued supply of protein for Americans,” the Executive Order stated. “However, outbreaks of COVID-19 among workers at some processing facilities have led to the reduction in some of those facilities’ production capacity. In addition, recent actions in some States have led to the complete closure of some large processing facilities. Such actions may differ from or be inconsistent with interim guidance recently issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the Department of Labor entitled ‘Meat and Poultry Processing Workers and Employers’ providing for the safe operation of such facilities.”
According to a report by Politico, at least 22 meat processing plants have closed over the course of the COVID-19 outbreak, which has led many in the sector to worry about protein shortages.
“Such closures threaten the continued functioning of the national meat and poultry supply chain, undermining critical infrastructure during the national emergency,” the Executive Order stated. “Given the high volume of meat and poultry processed by many facilities, any unnecessary closures can quickly have a large effect on the food supply chain.”
In a press release, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue supported President Trump’s move to keep meat and poultry processing facilities open during the COVID-19 national emergency.
“I thank President Trump for signing this executive order and recognizing the importance of keeping our food supply chain safe, secure, and plentiful. Our nation’s meat and poultry processing facilities play an integral role in the continuity of our food supply chain,” said Secretary Perdue. “Maintaining the health and safety of these heroic employees in order to ensure that these critical facilities can continue operating is paramount. I also want to thank the companies who are doing their best to keep their workforce safe as well as keeping our food supply sustained. USDA will continue to work with its partners across the federal government to ensure employee safety to maintain this essential industry.”
This same press release also outlined that the CDC and OSHA have put out guidance for plants to implement to help ensure employee safety to reopen plants or to continue to operate those still open.
How will this Executive Order help support the supply chain and protein operators? Deli Market News will continue to report.