The following represents a letter that the consulting rabbi of the Ben Pekuah meat concern in Australia, Rabbi Meir Rabi, wrote in response to the Five Towns Jewish Times article last week on the topic of Ben Pekuah. Rabbi Yair Hoffman has written a point by point response. In addition, a letter was written by Rav Hershel Schachter Shlita, agreeing with Rabbi Hoffman’s point. Below is Rabbi Rabi’s letter.
We appreciate the opportunity to add some information to clarify last week’s article about BP.
A] Our primary objective is to welcome those who are sympathetic but not currently committed to eating kosher meat, either because of its cost, or because the choicer cuts aren’t available.
RYH Response: While that may be what you say, the fact that the promotional material includes letters and photos with Chareidi Rabbis, many of which were done without their permission, is indicative of a campaign to also get the Chareidi target market.
B] All our BP are derived from those that originated as non-fully-gestated babies.
RYH Response: The distinction between fully gestated and the 8 month calf which forms the underpinnings of this entire venture is a debate in the Poskim, with many Poskim holding it is prohibited. The Rambam holds that there is no such distinction and so do the Baalei HaTosfos in tractate Shabbos 135a (“Ben”). The uestion is whether it is fair to market such a product even to Jews who are less observant. Furthermore, the Ramah writes elsewhere that we do not distinguish between ben ches and ben tes anymore.
I believe that you making a halachic error in thinking that the offspring of a ben ches BP is treated like a BP ben ches and not a ben tes once it has walked on the ground. This, it seems, is what you are basing your entire edifice upon.
Lastly, the very thought of specifically harvesting a fetus prematurely in order to raise and breed its offspring is halachically untenable as well as perhaps morally questionable..
C] BP is markedly less expensive than and superior to ordinary kosher because
• every ounce of meat of every animal that is Shechted is Glatt Kosher LeMehadrin
RYH Response: The term Glatt when used colloquially means a higher quality of kashrus and does not exclusively refer to the smoothness of lungs anymore. The fact that this meat is only kosher according to a combination of a minority opinion combined with two obscure readings of texts makes this statement somewhat misleading.
In addition, as mentioned in our first article, the London Beis Din has requested that Rabbi Rabi take down the letter from the London Beis Din on his website that gives the impression of support. They claim that the letter was only meant to help you get a job in hashgacha and you had used this letter to support his own hechsher and to have it reflect on Ben Pekuah. They have said its use is dishonest.
When I brought up the issue in conversation with Mr. Bloch he said that this has nothing to do with the company as they are not displaying the London Beis Din letter of approbation. In fact, the company brochure, which the 5TJT has now gotten hold of displays the London Beis Din letter prominently. This is a questionable practice.
• checking the lungs for ritual blemishes is not required – a great time, money and personnel saving
RYH Response: Most smaller shechitas have only one processing line with one experienced bodek. This is probably the case in the abattoirs used in your area as well. Thus, the line would not be slowed at all and the personnel savings would be of one employee.
• in ordinary Kosher such blemishes regularly disqualify up to 66%
RYH Response: Actually, my research is that it is more like 25 to 35 percent. This is especially true in Australia where the cows are much healthier than elsewhere.
• no need to remove Cheilev and Gid [the forbidden fats and sciatic nerve] – a tremendous saving
RYH Response: The issue of Chailev is also not so clear cut. All seem to hold that the chailev must be removed, rather there is a debate as to whether this obligation is biblical or on account of maris ayin.
The reason why you may have thought that there is no need to remove the chailev is that in SA 64:2 it appears to only mention hifris al gabei karka, walking on ground, in relation to Ben tes. You assume that it doesn’t apply to children of a Ben ches or your Ben ches that gets saved. But perhaps the real reason that it only mentions it in relation to Ben tes is because that is the only one that survives.
A Ben ches that is removed and survives can very well be considered a Ben tes! Furthermore, once a cow is walking around, whycan;t we assume the maris ayin would be there regardless of the origin of the cow. And how can you categorically state that the opinion that holds Ben tes Chailev is Doriso will not hold the same for progeny of a Ben ches or the Ben ches itself that somehow was saved and grew to birth age? The issue is about possibly feeding chailev to others.
• there is no risk these painstaking tasks are performed hurriedly and incompletely
RYH Response: According to the simple readings it would be uite risky.
• BP animals are processed as efficiently as non-Kosher animals
• BP requires far fewer Kosher staff
• ordinary Kosher production runs slower, is less efficient, and requires more staff
• tereifos from ordinary Kosher sold to the non-Kosher market only fetch non-Kosher prices. Their extra production costs cannot be recovered.
RYH Response: In this list you list 9 reasons why your meat is substantially cheaper than the standard kosher meat. But most Kosher shechita is done at the gentile slaughter facility and a kosher production team is brought in. The team will number between 3 and 5 people. The cost per day of this team is about $2200 per day. But if this number is spread out over the total edible poundage of the slaughter that day (say the product of 100 cows at 850 pounds divided by 2 for bone and fat loss and halved again), the additional cost is less than ten cents more– yes, less than 10 cents more on the wholesale level. So what then is the extra cost in kosher production? It is the distribution system, the markups of all the middle people and the standard aspects of economics that would apply to all businesses. The nine points that are made here are a drop in the bucket and perhaps are not the real reason that kosher meat is higher.
D] In previous generations kashering and removing prohibited cheilev fats and gid was performed at home so BP offered no real benefit whereas modern meat processing presents tremendous challenges and costs to Kosher. Today BP offers tremendous benefits.
RYH Response: An honest system of reliably tracking and reliably keeping tabs on BP herds would also involve expenses. Outsourcing this system to a gentile firm and outsourcing crucial aspects of overseeing the kashrus involved to a gentile firm is fraught with missteps. Assurances of reliability here notwithstanding, the fact is that we were not yet able to obtain assurances of your organization’s kashrus integrity from any of the three major kashrus organizations in Australia nor from the London Beis Din despite their letter being on your own website. Indeed, on the contrary, we have received and viewed letters demanding that you take down these letters from your website and you have not complied with them.
E] Chazal did not ban or even discourage cultivating herds of BP notwithstanding the potential problem that animals with partial BP Yichus cannot be Shechted.
The Gaonim Rav Sherira and Rav Hai certainly took precautions to prevent such risks when they cultivated their BP herds for feeding the community [R Chaim Kanievsky explained they did this simply to promote awareness of BP] but clearly these were unremarkable since no mention or fuss is made about them.
RYH Response: With due respect, no mention is made anywhere of herds that Rav Shrirah Gaon and Rav Hai Gaon cultivated. They had a few Ben Pakuahs. There is no evidence that they cultivated herds of Ben Pakuahs.
We have very strict safety and security systems, including DNA to verify and guarantee the purity of all our BP which is documented and confirmed by an independent auditor as are all our protocols.
RYH Response: There are two issues here. Firstly, when dealing with DNA there needs to be a trust of the person in charge. Thus far, we have been unable to find Rabbis in your community that stand behind your supervision – even on ice cream – and certainly for meat. The second issue deals with the DNA parameters. Rabbi Yaakov Roza is one of the top experts in the field of DNA testing and halacha. He states that the halachic criterion is to match 200 of the 500 DNA parameters in order to create a DNA umdana. Your process matches 12 of 25 DNA parameters.
F] Halacha accepts the legitimacy of non-Jewish experts due to their need to maintain their integrity and reputation.
RYH Response: This is not true on issues of meat. A kfailah has ne’emanus on taste, but not for matters having to do with supervising meat.
The material collected from the Shechted animals for DNA analysis is overseen by Rabbi Rabi.
G] DNA is vastly superior to double seals required for meat which is in the control of a Goy [ShA-YD-118] Furthermore, considering Rabbi Hoffman’s confirmation that authentic Kosher seals are fairly readily available, one must seriously question their reliability [the OK reports; “Our Mashgiach sent the meat back and was shocked to observe the (non-Jewish) driver applying other Kosher seals he had on the truck to those same boxes of meat”]
DNA provides the most powerful tool on earth to prevent substitutions and guarantee the integrity of Kosher meat. The Israeli media reports “Only 15,600 tons of 35,000 tons of non-Kosher meat imported during 2007 to 2009 for the Palestinian Authority, reached its stated destinations. 56% just “disappeared.” State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss wrote, “There is a concern that it was smuggled into Israel and lucratively sold as Kosher meat”
H] The Pesukim in the Torah, and the argument Ubbar Yerech Imo – a foetus is deemed to be akin to a limb of the mother, fail to explain or provide foundation for the ruling that all future generations of purebred BP are also BP. The Gemara and Rishonim see no need to explain it, as though it is self-evident.
Indeed, R Chaim Kanievsky explained – obviously species replicate themselves and since BP is a species unto itself it requires no Passuk or Derasha to know that it replicates itself.
RYH Response: You are quoting Rav Chaim Kanievsky, but he and Rav Shteinman and Rav Karelitz and two other gedolim signed a letter saying that commercial BP production is forbidden. The Five Towns Jewish Times published this letter last week. Why is this being ignored?
Furthermore, we now have a video of Rav Chaim wondering what happened to you [in other words, that you have gone completely off the deep end]. His grandson then asked the question, “Is what he is doing wrong?” Rav Chaim responds, “Certainly!”
We also have a letter here from Rav Hershel Schachter of the OU saying that the approach of the requirement of shechita being not a full fledged requirement is incorrect, and thus any allowing of stunning before the shechita would make the meat treif.
I] Just as deer meat may be cooked with dairy since Basar-BeChalav is restricted to the species of BeHeimah which excludes Chayos, like deer, so too BP is not a BeHeimah and may be cooked with dairy.
RYH Response: In order to respond to this, we must take off the kid gloves. Not one Rishon or acharon mentions that BP meat is pareve in 1600 years. You have an inference that you make in one sefer (which you admit has alternative readings) that you have extrapolated to say this very explosive idea. In addition, there is not a posek in America, Australia, or Eretz Yisroel that has ruled in this manner – it is simply untenable.
R Moshe Sternbuch, quoting the Meshech-Chochmah, unequivocally declares that BP meat may be cooked with dairy – השחיטה מתיר בבן פקועה ושרי בחלב – the Shechitah [of the mother] permits the BP and it may be cooked with milk. [MoAdimUzManim Vol-4 Chapter-319]
RYH Response: No, these sources are referring to the milk because it is considered chalav shechuta milk of a slaughtered animal.
J] Rabbi Hoffman had access to all R Chaim’s correspondence prior to publication of his article as well as the details of a renowned Posek who endorses and has eaten our BP meat.
RYH Response: Following the principles of due diligence, each item and name that you have presented must be confirmed. Thus far, I have been unable to confirm one citation or quote. Those that have responded to my inquiries have had slightly different stories than that which was presented. The renowned posek you cite also must have instructed you to remove his name from your website, which you did take down but a few days ago.
The Rav Chaim correspondences, are working with a different reading than yours as can be seen from the letter that he signed along with the other four Gedolim, and from the video that we have. YH
Rabbi Meir G Rabi, Consulting Rabbi, AK Ben Pekuah Pty Ltd
The author of the responses can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Watch the video below: