Monday, June 16, 2008


A Comment on Agriprocessors

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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  1. It would appear that the Ribbono Shel Olam is a little bit upset with the goyim there right now... Just as the business went down significantly in their home town DES MOINES IOWA due to the civil charges and injunctions, the goyim as having the worst flooding in 500 years... Sounds plain to me -- Those that hurt Hashem's children will get punished.. A Mabul.

  2. Measure for measure, it seems. It does seem odd that they were targeted and also in the news. Here where I live the Egg industry has been targeted as well. The funny thing is I only heard about one, out of the many, egg enterprise that was specifically reported on and know about. I gotta do some research on this. Thanks for the heads up on the story Reb Akiva.

  3. Extortion, bribery, paying workers off the books inorder to avoind taxes, contributing to the deliquency of minors, violation of child labor laws, rape, statutory rape, falifying state documents ... the list goes on and on. The first witness was scheduled togobefore a grand jury last week. All of these are potential charges the Rubashkin's and their managers and supervisors may face. All except one. Eighteen children between the ages of 13 and 17 were picked-up during the raid. This is not a conjecture or accusation. It is a fact. The question is can the Jewish community have confidence in the kashrus of product that comes out of such a place that such low respect for human beings in its employee and such low respect for US law.

  4. Akiva, I completely agree with you that success makes you a target. There are so many companies out there with illegal immigrants working, and only this one business is getting singled out. Our country has over 6 million illegal aliens, especially in California….but somehow a Jewish company in Iowa gets attacked. AgriProcessors did and are doing their best to get through this difficult time. They even hired a staffing agency that has helped acquire new employees. So, they will continue to provide good kosher meats like my favorite, Aaron’s Best Meatballs!!

  5. The gigantic piece you are missing here is that Agri has been cited for more than a year by the USDA for health issues (Search the Inet if you dont believe me) of various sorts, and the KAJ finally dropped them after more than a year of threatening due to kashrus issues.

    The entire operation was a huge Chillul H', and I hope they clean up their act - not just in terms of immigrants, but that I can buy kosher meat that is a reasonable quality and without health issues (these issues I have experienced myself, besides the official issues).

  6. The Jews arent being "targeted" There is a court case right now with a goy farm corporation that had one of their illegal alien employees die from over heating and no access to water. Whats happening is the government is finally getting their act together and cracking down on major corporations that are making millions of dollars and not paying taxes or legal wages.

    Still though, innocent until proven guilty.

    Once the case goes to court and the verdict is given then we will decide what the little immigrant butcher just trying to make a living turned into. A Greedy Money Machine. Thats what happens when you become a multi millionaire so quick you are tempted to figure out how to make even more.

    As for now, I will purchace Empire meat.

  7. Worst flood in 500 years? Try worst flood since the last flood 8 years ago.

    in 2000 the Iowa Governor called 83 of 99 Iowa Counties Disaster Areas.

    Who are you anyway to decide how Hashem enacts punishment?

    The Federal Government raids the Jewish Kosher Company, so Hashem destroys thousands of peoples material lives that had no influence or affect what so ever in what happened to Agro.

    Wow you really are desperate to stick up for Lubavitch.

    and Mystical Path can we have some Sources?? It was a really nice story about struggle but you missed out a lot of key points like the bakers dozen of federal charges currently against Agro, or the past couple years or conflict with the FDA and KAJ as someone said. Who cares about PETA.

  8. Oh and to say that this is an isolated incident unfairly targeting Jews who employ illegals. Heres a link from the LaTimes.,0,1067111.story

    Over 9000 Illegals prosecuted for border crossing in March up from 3700 this time last year.

    The Government is finally cracking down and it just happens to be that Agro was a first example

    Its election year people!


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