Shoppers wait hours outside West Loop butcher shop amid concerns of COVID-19 affecting food supply

CHICAGO (WLS) -- It's not exactly ideal to stand outside in the pouring rain for meat products, but that's exactly what dozens of people did, beginning early this morning outside the Peoria Packing Butcher Shop on Chicago's near West Side.

Moses Pates waited over an hour; he has a meat freezer at home and plans to keep it stocked, especially now.

"That's why I'm out here now, so I won't have to come back," Pates said.

The president signed an executive order last night, aimed at keeping food processing plants open and preventing shortages of pork, chicken and other products, despite a risk of COVID-19 outbreaks at many facilities.

EMBED More News Videos

The order uses the Defense Production Act to classify meat processing as critical infrastructure to try to prevent a shortage of chicken, pork and other meat on supermarket shelves

Smithfield Foods, one of the country's leading protein distributors, closed down two plants in Illinois.

There are concerns that several plants across the country may close, prompting some to think ahead.

"I got grandkids. I want to make sure, you know, in case something happens I can feed the grandkids and make sure my family is OK," customer Maggie Lee said.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union said in a statement that they want to ensure the executive order puts the safety of meatpacking workers first.

"We urge the Administration to immediately enact clear and enforceable safety standards that compel all meatpacking companies to provide the highest level of protective equipment," the statement said.

RELATED: Coronavirus Illinois: Farmers don't expect meat shortage, but variety could be impacted amid COVID-19 pandemic

This all comes after reports of 20 deaths, and 5,000 workers being hospitalized with complications from COVID19.

The North American Meat Institute also released a statement, saying in part that they will continue to implement safety measures by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Those include COVID-19 testing, temperature checks, face coverings, social distancing and more. In some cases, they say they are also offering pay raises, bonuses, paid sick leave and improved health benefits.

The United States Department of Agriculture and U.S. Food and Drug Administration say they are closely monitoring the food supply chain for any shortages.
Copyright © 2021 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.