KANSAS CITY, MO. – Lawyers for the plaintiffs in a price-fixing lawsuit filed against major US pork processors said President Donald Trump’s executive order to keep meat processing plants open during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is consistent with allegations that processors were able to manipulate prices for pork.

In a document filed with the US District Court for the District of Minnesota, dated May 11, lawyers for the plaintiffs said they are not asking the Court to decide that the statements contained in the Executive Order are true.

“Here, at the motion to dismiss stage, the fact that an Executive Order was recently issued opining that even small output restrictions can dramatically affect the supply of pork at the grocery store adds an additional layer of plausibility to Plaintiffs’ allegations,” the document stated. “Hence, judicial notice of the fact that this Executive Order was issued is appropriate.”

Trump signed the executive order on April 28, 2020, after illnesses among employees forced several leading meat and poultry processors to idle plants. Under the Defense Production Act, Trump ordered meat plants to remain open as infrastructure critical to keeping Americans fed.

“Such closures threaten the continued functioning of the national meat and poultry supply chain, undermining critical infrastructure during the national emergency,” the 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. 

“For example, closure of a single large beef processing facility can result in the loss of over 10 million individual servings of beef in a single day. Similarly, under established supply chains, closure of a single meat or poultry processing facility can severely disrupt the supply of protein to an entire grocery store chain.”

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), which represents more than 250,000 meatpacking and food processing workers across the United States, said internal estimates, as of May 8, confirmed at least 30 meat plant worker deaths and more than 10,000 workers infected or exposed to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.