Rubashkin Meat Products Back on Local Store Shelves


postvilleThe Jewish Chronicle of Kansas City reports: After a yearlong absence following an unprecendented immigration-service raid that nearly shut it down, meat from the Agriprocessors plant in Postville, Iowa, is once again for sale in the Kansas City area. Local rabbis welcome the move as a boon to consumers and say they have no qualms about the ethical practices at the Postville plant, or about its kashrus.

On July 20, a federal bankruptcy court judge approved the sale of Agriprocessors, formerly the largest kosher-meat producer in the United States, to SHF Industries, formed by Canada-based entrepreneur Hershey Friedman and his son-in-law, Daniel Hirsch. According to a report in The Forward, Friedman paid $8.5 million for the business.On July 27, Iowa labor officials agreed to drop the fines they had sought from Agriprocessors from $10 million to $1 million.

With new ownership in place, local rabbis say they welcome the return of the Rubashkin brands to the city’s largest kosher meat purveyor, the Hen House at 11751 Roe Ave.

Rabbi Herbert Mandl of Kehilath Israel Synagogue, chairman of the KC Vaad HaKashrus, which handles the supervision and certification of kashrus locally, said he suggested bringing back the Postville product line. SHF will continue to use the same brand names as Agriprocessors: Rubashkin’s, Aaron’s Best and Shor Habor.

“It’s under total new ownership,” Rabbi Mandl said. “… It’s under the (kashrus supervision of the) OU (Orthodox Union), and they have gone in there and scrupulously checked what is going on. The OU itself went through and tightened up standards as far as slaughter is concerned. It’s a total change of operation.”

Rabbi Mandl also noted that Agriprocessors remains in the crosshairs of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. PETA’s fanatical supporters have targeted it for any number of critical actions. PETA spokeswoman Lindsay Rajt said this week her group would seek to work with the new owners and would continue to try to monitor conditions inside the plant.

“We’re sending SHF a letter this week extending an invitation to meet to talk about past issues regarding inhumane slaughtering and handling at the plant and how to ensure that more humane practices and protocols are established and enforced,” she said. “We’re pushing the new owners to make it a priority to adhere to kosher laws and USDA laws regarding slaughter. We’re all the way vigilant about monitoring and follow-up, especially with the history of this facility.”

Rajt said PETA also supports Temple Grandin’s recommendations to have video monitoring cameras installed, as well as third-party, unannounced audits of the plant. Grandin, a professor of animal science at Colorado State University, is the nation’s leading consultant on humane methods of animal slaughter and meat processing.

Hen House began carrying Rubashkin chicken about a month ago.

“They (Agriprocessors) may eventually go back to beef, but right now they’re only slaughtering poultry, which is what we’re hurting for here, because we weren’t getting it at all for awhile,” Rabbi Mandl said. “This has dropped the price of kosher poultry in Kansas City by half, and that’s why I asked them to bring it in.”

He said Sheila Fasbinder, the local broker for Rubashkin products, called him a couple of months ago and asked him what he thought about bringing the products back.

“I said, ‘Go for it. It’s a new operation, new owner, they’re being watched. It will drop prices. Let’s go for it,’ ” Rabbi Mandl said.

Mendel Segal, buyer and mashgiach at Hen House, said that during the past year, Hen House has been selling David Elliot and Empire brand chicken. “Now (Agriprocessors) is building up its products and product line,” he said.

Segal said he expects to have a steady supply. Hen House is selling Aaron’s Best poultry cold cuts and chicken at this time. It will continue to sell a few David Elliot and Empire chicken products, but not as many as before.

“A lot of it was strictly a business decision,” Segal said. “Their (Rubashkin) prices are a lot better, which makes our prices better for our customers. “But also dealing with them, talking to our representative, we’re all pretty confident they’ve turned over a new leaf. We’ve talked to the rabbis in town, and I know they’re supportive of it. …

Rabbi Daniel Rockoff of Congregation Beth Israel Abraham & Voliner is Rav haMachshir for the KC Vaad. He said he believes there will be greater oversight at the plant now.

“Rubashkin’s has been sold, so it’s under new ownership and a new direction, and everything in the past is behind it. There’s no reason to continue to penalize them or not support them,” he said.

{The Jewish Chronicle/ Newscenter}


  1. “It’s a total change of operation.”

    ” . . . they’ve turned over a new leaf.”

    “Rubashkin’s has been sold, so it’s under new ownership and a new direction, and everything in the past is behind it. There’s no reason to continue to penalize them or not support them . . . ”

    All of this implies that the “old” operation and the “old” leaf, under the “old” ownership with the “old” direction, “in the past,” was quite bad and full of problems!

    BY THEMSELVES, these statements would be outright Motzei Shem Ra!! However, we can be 100% sure that Rabbi Mandl, Rabbi Segal, and Rabbi Rockoff did not, Chas V’Shalom, mean to commit any aveiros of Lashon HaRa or Motzei Shem Ra!! Obviously then, these statements have to be understood IN THE CONTEXT of the current situation.

    B’Ezras HaShem, let us first briefly review the facts.

    The “old” Rubashkin family were extremely good and wonderful highly respected people of the highest integrity with the very best levels of Kashrus!

    The problems that they did have were that very many of the workers whom they had hired — who were in the US illegally and/or were younger than the legal working age — had fooled the Rubashkins into giving them jobs by showing them fake documents. We can thus be well sure that Mr. Rubashkin FULLY AGREED with the Immigration agents who raided his plant and arrested over 300 of these bad people. Then, these wicked illegal workers, in order to lessen their jail punishments, showed their great HaKores HaTov to the Rubashkins by telling the police lies and gross distortions about their working conditions.

    Then, as Rabbi Herbert Mandl noted, the fanatic animal rights organization, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals – P.E.T.A., purported its own bunch of skewed allegations of mistreatment of the animals being slaughtered at the plant.

    Furthermore, many of our Jewish brethren who, very unfortunately, have been far away from the truth of our Torah, developed wicked false philosophies that our Torah needs to be “changed” to fit in with our modern world. In order to support their contentions, they look for anything that the Torah world does that they think appears to be “wrong,” and then twist it and blow it up as an example of what has to be eliminated.

    An extreme example of this is the following. Around a century ago, a number of Jews who, very tragically, had turned away from and vehemently hated our Torah, developed a large Yiddish literature about Jewish life in the old country of Eastern Europe. Some of these narratives were latter made into famous plays and motion pictures. In these make believe stories, Jewish religious practices were shown in ways that were either complete fabrications or severe distortions of actual Torah observance. These false presentations portrayed “the old” Jewish ways as inhumane and abnormal — certainly things that anyone would want to discard and get rid of.

    Specifically, in the realm of kashrus, the reform and conservative movements have felt that we need to make a whole new set of rules and standards for kosher food supervision and certification. They call this proposed plan “Hechsher Tzedek” — amazingly very Torahdike terms!

    Now the exact complex details of which points of this “Hechsher Tzedek” are really Torah values and which points are not, are obviously way beyond the scope of this news comment on the Rubashkin update. What is relevant to the story though is the following. As related above, over a year ago, the story first broke open with the INS raid and massive arrests at the plant. Then came the endless numerous false allegations of abuse and mistreatment of the workers and the animals. Then came the unjust arrest of Mr. Rubashkin himself. And, of course, all of this — of course, just the bad accusations, NOT Shalom Mordechai’s good deeds — was heavily blasted in the secular media for everyone to know.

    So this whole episode was certainly strong fuel for the fire of the Reform and Conservatives’ complaints. Very tragically, it was a Chillul HaShem of the first magnitude. In effect, the Hechsher Tzedek promoters were able to say: “Ah ha! You see! These old fashioned Orthodox kosher operations are full of corruption and scandal! There needs to be a whole overhaul of the entire kosher system!”

    So Rabbi Mandl, Rabbi Segal, and Rabbi Rockoff are speaking to the general population, who has, totally understandably, gotten a very negative picture of the Rubashkin company. In effect, they are saying to them: “Do not continue to think bad about Rubashkin. There is a whole new team of different people there now who are under very tight supervision.”