by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths
Agriprocessors is the corporation that includes well known kosher name brands Aaron's Best, Shor HaBor, and Supreme Kosher. They are the largest kosher meat producer in America.
Agriprocessors is an American success story. A hardworking immigrant comes to US shores, works hard and scrapes together enough money to open his own corner kosher butcher shop. He grows his business to a sizable meat market, and opens a series of branches throughout the New York city areas where kosher meat is in demand. They provide good service and good product at a competitive price, they do well.
His son takes over and asks, why are we taking all the markup of the middlemen? He scouts out a _bankrupt_ meat packing plant in cow country (be close to the product, reduce cow transport costs), buys it and puts a bankrupt industry town back in business. They provide a good product at a lower price than the competition and at a higher kosher supervision level.
With some good marketing and market positioning (such as having different kosher supervisions for different segments of the market), over 5 years they become the majority supplier within the US. Literally from rags to riches with hard work, smart business, and good mazel and brachos.
Their products are consumed by the kosher consumer, the Muslim consumer!, and the health conscious.
But success makes you a target, and striving to stay successful sometimes leads to some questionable business choices. First, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) went after them, by getting a camera inside. Surprise, cow slaughter is not very pretty, and Agri was taking a small step to speed the meat processing that just looked horrific on camera. While it did not affect the kashrus, they removed that step to make that problem go away.
Now they've been targeted by Homeland Security for employing illegal aliens. By the law of the land and common business practice, they did what they were supposed to do, required 1 form of (non-photo) ID to provide right to work (for example, a social security card). But it was likely that many of the applicants were fake, and they ignored that. Doing so is normal business practice, nor are they required by law to investigate or call the authorities for suspicions. (Further, most calls to the authorities for such are routinely ignored.)
The result is their production is halved, and kosher meat will be more expensive and harder to obtain in the US, as half of their employees were found illegal.
The Torah question is, does halacha require them to act beyond the letter of the law, even when their competitors are doing the same and the authorities routinely ignore calls for help in this area?
In not doing so, they have created a Chillul Hashem. But if they had done so, they probably would have been sued for discrimination. Catch-22.
Photo from GlattOnDemand.Com - kosher steaks shipped to your house, how cool is that?
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BS"D - בסיעתא דשמיא