Shoppers stocking up on meat as Trump orders processing plants to remain open amid pandemic

In an effort to avoid empty shelves from the grocery stores to local butcher shops, President Trump is classifying meat processing as a critical infrastructure. 

The owner of Chop Shop in Gaithersburg says one of his vendors has already been putting out the alert. 

"He was telling me today, the only thing they're seeing is if they order a certain amount of meat, they're only getting in half of the amount of what they ordered," said John Grande. "So, you might start seeing a shortage because everybody's gonna wanna jump on it and everybody's gonna wanna buy it up all at once."

CORONAVIRUS RESOURCES: Everything You Need to Know

Shoppers are already stocking up, especially since the chairman of Tyson Foods took out a full-page ad in several newspapers on Sunday saying the country’s food supply chain is breaking. 

Some of the biggest meat processing plants nationwide have had to close, including Tyson's largest pork plant in Waterloo, Iowa. 

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union says an estimated 6,500 workers are sick or have been exposed to COVID-19 in the U.S and 20 have died.  

RELATED: Trump orders meat processing plants to remain open

Trump’s order is designed, in part, to protect companies from legal liability if workers end up getting sick.

In our region, the Delmarva processing plants on the Eastern Shore have seen an increase of worker absences, but so far have faired better than plants in the Midwest.

Perdue Farms sent a statement to FOX 5 saying they have implemented social distancing measures. It reads, in part, “Where social distancing isn't possible, we are rolling out temporary installations of dividers between our associates on production lines.”

The company is also regularly checking workers' temperatures and increasing sick benefits.  

You may be concerned about getting sick yourself when you hear about all of the meat plant workers contracting COVID-19, but Perdue says per the CDC the coronavirus is not known to be a foodborne pathogen and there is apparently a very low risk of spread from food products.