(CNN)Meat processing plants have become the latest hot spot in the novel coronavirus outbreak, sparking concerns that our food supply chain is breaking. But is it really? CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta turns to the experts for help. Dianne Gallagher, a national correspondent for CNN, and Julie Niederhoff, associate professor of supply chain management at Syracuse University, walk us through our food supply chain, step-by-step, and explain why there's no need to panic buy just yet.
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You can listen on your favorite podcast app or read the transcript below.
Maria Gonzalez (at Atlanta Food Bank): I really need something to eat.
Isabel Couras (at Atlanta Food Bank): With this situation going on, you know, it's too much ... But at least we have somebody that's feeding us and giving us food.
CNN "OutFront" Anchor Erin Burnett: New tonight, President Trump signing an executive order to keep meat processing plants open, amid growing concerns about the nation's food supply.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta: We've been hearing a lot of things lately about how the pandemic is affecting our food supply chain.
We have seen lines of cars, sometimes for miles, waiting at food banks.
Atlanta Food Bank volunteer: You know, we're hoping that the line isn't tremendously past 2,000. We know where we're going to cut off and hopefully get everybody as much food as we possibly can.
Gupta: With millions of Americans newly unemployed, more and more families are turning to soup kitchens or food pantries to get by.
And then, you hear something like this:
Jen Sorenson, Iowa Select Farms communications director: Our hogs have been backing up for over four weeks now. We're exhausting, you know, every plan, every resource to prevent farmers from having to euthanize our hogs so we're definitely in a terrible situation of peril right now and we're asking for help.
Gupta: That was Jen Sorenson, of Iowa Select Farms, talking about the possibility of killing hogs because farmers can't maintain them anymore. The National Pork Board is estimating that 1.5 million hogs will have to be killed in the coming weeks.
So what's going on here?
Well, three of the country's largest pork processing plants are closing indefinitely because of outbreaks in the workforce.
Together, these plants make up about 15% of pork production.
Because of this, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has issued new guidelines to ensure the workers' health and safety, including setting up barriers between workers, staggering shifts and making sure everyone is working at least 6 feet apart.
The country's largest meatpacking union estimates that 20 workers have died of the virus and at least 6,000 additional members have been impacted by it.
Tyson's largest plant, in Waterloo, Iowa, is linked to almost half of that county's cases.
There are obviously significant health concerns. But this week, President Trump still signed an executive order, compelling meat processing plants to remain open.
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