Culture, Justice

AgriProcessors: When abusing people and animals isn't enough

What? Again? Can’t these people get it together?
Believe it or not, AgriProcessors is in the news again.
According to the Forward, in March and September of 2006 the USDA sent the AgriProcessors plant manager a “Letter of Warning” reviewing a series of problems, including: receiving 250 non-compliance records from the United States Department of Agriculture during 2006, five of them for inadequate safeguards against Mad Cow disease, and at least 18 records for fecal matter in the food production area (Including one, on December 26, in which the inspector wrote that during multiple checks of 10 chickens “fecal contamination varied between 70 and 80%.” and another, similar, citation a day later).
Oh, yeah! MMM. Take that, all you folks who buy kosher “because it’s healthier.” Granted, IMO, this is not a place whose products I would be easily able to call kosher, as we’ve seen reported here on Jewschool several rounds of violations of actual kashrut, as well as violations of other halachic obligations, including the acceptable treatment of workers. See: öÄéÌåÉï áÌÀîÄùÑÀôÌÈè úÌÄôÌÈãÆä åÀùÑÈáÆéäÈ áÌÄöÀãÈ÷Èä, Where’s the beef now? Kashrut update on Rubashkin’s, Another beef with kashrut in the news, and Kashrut Brouhaha Has Legs; just one month ago, Mobius added this gem to the treasury: Agriprocessors: Still trayfin’ it up,
and Failed Messiah continues to do a wonderful job documenting this unbelieveable, interminable scandal.
In case that all hasn’t turned you veggie yet, just compare: the entire beef, poultry and egg industry had 34 recalls in 2006, AgriProcessors had two during the last eight months, both of them Class I, the highest risk level.
In case there’s any doubt, I’d like to note that these items are not disconnected. As the Forward reports,

The documents were released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the United Food and Commercial Workers, which has been attempting to unionize the workers at the Postville plant. The documents all stem from incidents between January 1, 2006 and January 24, 2007. They are being released to the public by the UFCW at a press conference later today…
Jim Blau, assistant director of strategic resources at the United Food and Commercial Workers, said that workers at the plant tipped the union off to food safety problems. Blau said his organization, which represents close to 300,000 food production workers, was interested in dealing with the issues at AgriProcessors as a matter of protecting the industry.
“When you see things like this — it’s not good for the industry that there is a company that’s out there behaving like this,” Blau said.

Way back when, I spent some time working to organize workers in another industry. I want to emphasize that one of the reasons that it’s so important to do so is because unions don’t just protect the workers themselves. Unionized workers are able to report problems with lesser fear of reprisal. I myself know of several individuals who after whistle blowing, were protected by unions when their employer tried to fire them. It’s not just a matter of some people you didn’t really care about all that much who you’ll never meet, and maybe who don’t even speak your language.
That’s pretty important according to Jewish law: they are to be protected, and paid honestly, and treated with respect. It’s a Jewish obligation, and one which a kosher slaughterhouse ought to be obliged to meet before it can call itself in compliance with Jewish law. And let’s not even review the problems of the slaughter itself, which fails to follow the law it claims to follow in order to make its ginormous profit off the wallets of jews who are, essentially a captive audience (just try to find an independant shochet these days. I know of one, I’m sure there must be a few others – is there one in your city?). But since self-interest is the cornerstone of progress, let’s just say what’s really going on: these folks have no qualms about doing whatever they want to increase profit. The limitations don’t seem to be laws of kashrut directly pertaining to the meat itself, nor to the laws pertaining to the treatment of workers. Now it’s apparent, they don’t even care about the safety of the people eating the meat. It’s in the best interest of the Jewish community to make sure that workers are safe and able to report on what’s going on behind the scenes without threat of reprisal.
I don’t know when the Tzedek Hechsher will be making its now long-promised appearance, but Baruch Hashem, it couldn’t be too soon.
But don’t worry, I’m sure this will all be brushed off as a plot by the liberal Jews or the anti-semites to harm Orthodoxy.
Whoa. I think steam is coming out of my eyeballs. Wait, I need to go have some sweet tea or something. Hold the burger, willya?
hattip to Arieh Lebowitz at the JLC
Cross-posted to Kol Ra’ash Gadol

2 thoughts on “AgriProcessors: When abusing people and animals isn't enough

  1. Consumers simply can’t trust that meat coming from companies like AgriProcessors — and regulated by the government and even kosher certification companies — adheres to values of animal welfare or workers rights or even isn’t contaminated with feces or mad cow.
    It’s just one piece of bad news after another, and it’s time we said, “Enough!”
    On a large scale, that means pressuring the OU and the rest of the kosher meat industry to improve standards in a variety of ways. On a personal level, consumers should seriously consider whether they want to support the abhorrent practices of the kosher (and non-kosher) meat industry. Vegetarianism sounds like a wonderful solution right now. Check out to read more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.