Anti-Trust In Kosher Saint Paul

Rubashkin’s distributor in the upper midwest has consistently refused to sell non-glatt meat – even Rubashkin non-glatt – in the Twin Cities. Rabbi Morris Allen, the Saint Paul-based Conservative rabbi leading the Conservative Movement’s investigation of Rubashkin, has been fighting to get non-glatt for his community. But after many months of fighting, no results – until, it seems, this week. The local supermarket is now selling Rubashkin non-glatt. Amazing how this would happen the very week of the investigation, a week that saw the revelation of federal anti-trust subpoenas targeting price fixing and collusion in the kosher meat business. What a ‘coincidence.’

[For those not familiar with the intricacies of kosher food, non-glatt meat is less expensive than glatt. It is the meat of choice for most non-Orthodox and Modern Orthodox Jews.]

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24 Comments

Filed under Crime, Kosher Business?, Kosher Meat Scandal

24 responses to “Anti-Trust In Kosher Saint Paul

  1. Stephen Mendelsohn

    BS”D

    Why is Rabbi Allen fighting so hard to get AgriProcessor’s David’s brand into his community? Rabbi Allen is one of about 50 rabbis who signed the document posted at HumaneKosher.com opposing AgriProcessors’ use of the upside down rotating pen as inhumane and calling for them to replace it with an upright pen. There is no evidence that AgriProcessors has stopped using the rotating “wheel of death” we saw on the PETA video, and indeed, many haredim continue to insist on shechita munachat based on the outmoded opinion of a single acharon. The Conservative movement’s CJLS unanimously ruled that all forms of shechita munachat violate the prohibition against tza’ar ba’alei chayim. Why then is Rabbi Allen contradicting his very own principles?

  2. Stephen Mendelsohn

    BS”D

    The OU is claming on its website that Temple Grandin recently visited AgriProcessors in Postville along with Rabbi Genack and now approves of their animal welfare procedures, and that she will be involved in ongoing monitoring of the plant. It still leaves the Rubashkin plant in Uruguay (and the shackle-and hoist meat imported from South America by Alle/ MealMart) unresolved, not to mention all the other issues involved in “kosher” factory farming. Obviously, this does not address the outstanding worker abuse and anti-trust issues either.

    While this appears to be good news, it really should not have taken 18 months to have gotten to this position. Perhaps better late than never.

  3. She offered to go for free 18 months ago. It took until about a month ago for Rubashkin to agree. Rabbi Genack pushed for the visit, lagely to shield the OU from continued attacks over its supervision and from new allegations od Rubashkin’s worker abuse. Unfortunately, the academics behind the visit do not really understand the politics of the visit or how they are now being used.

  4. I read the blurb. It seems Rubashkin cleaned up his barns before Dr. Grandin came. They were horrible as recently as a couple of months ago …

  5. Stephen Mendelsohn

    BS”D

    In essence, Dr. Grandin would never have been invited had not the Forward done its expose on working conditions in Postville. That means the Forward and the rest of us need to keep up the pressure.

  6. Not just in essence – in fact. A federal anti-trust invesitgation hasn’t hurt, either.

  7. Neo-Conservaguy

    “The OU is claming on its website that Temple Grandin recently visited AgriProcessors in Postville along with Rabbi Genack and now approves of their animal welfare procedures, and that she will be involved in ongoing monitoring of the plant.”

    That’s a remarkable assertion given that Dr. Grandin promotes an entirely different approach to slaughter than the upside-down pen monstrosity in use at AgriProcessors.

    Besides, if things are DIFFERENT now and are NOW approved, doesn’t that imply that there were PROBLEMS PREVIOUSLY? Time to do tshuva and beg forgiveness, OU rabbis.

  8. Stephen Mendelsohn

    BS”D

    The key thing is that we have yet to hear from Dr. Grandin directly. Anything coming from either the OU or, kal va-chomer, AgriProcessors, is going to have a certain spin. (AgriProcessors has pictures of Dr. Grandin with Rabbis Genack and Weissmandel touring the Postville plant on its site.) If she were to post something on her own website regarding her visit to Postville, it would have more credibility.

  9. As president of Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA), I believe that the failure of the kosher meat industry and much of the Jewish community to address the fact that animal-based diets and agriculture violate basic Jewish mandates to preserve human health, treat animals with compassionately, protect the environment, conserve natural resources and help hungry people has led to a situation where AgriProcessors is being investigated about its alleged mistreatment of animals and AgriProcessors and other meat suppliers have been subpoenaed re possible criminal collusion. Failure to address violations of Torah values in some areas make other violations more likely in other areas.

  10. Anonymous

    Why would you say that non-glat is eatne by most conservative and modern ortho consumers.

    First – Very few conservative consumers keep kosher, the market is small, Allan wants it avail for himself and few others. The reason its not sold in St Paul is because Zeilengold doesn’t want to have to tell ppl he doesn’t eat his own Hashgacha.

    Secondly – I know very, very few modern ortho that eat non-glatt. The few places that carry such meat are not where any type of ortho ppl shop, with the exception of a regular supermarket selling pre-packed David’s.

  11. In St. Paul, there are more conservative Jews who keep kosher than there are Orthodox.

    Rabbi Allen is a vegetarian.

    The preference of the vast majority of non-O and MO consumers is non-glatt.

  12. Anonymous

    “The preference of the vast majority of non-O and MO consumers is non-glatt.”

    Not sure where you speak to or see MO consuemrs shopping.

    Where is it you live/shop again? I shop un UWS of Manhattan, 5 Towns, Teaneck NJ, Westchester, etc.. and don’t see or know of orthodox consmers that buy non-glatt products.

    Even since Hebrew National took on Ralbag, they haven’t been able to make any penetration into the market.

    Also, where would they buy such stuff? As I said Hebrew Natioanl isn’t selling much to them, no local Vaad woudl allow non-glatt (David’s) into local butchers. And stores liek Albertson’s and Shoprites, don’t carry much of it.

    “Vast majority”, I can’t see that.

  13. Stephen Mendelsohn

    BS”D

    Trader Joe’s, with several hundred stores in the Northeast, Midwest, and on the West Coast is the major chain carrying the David’s non-glatt label. TJ’s has a significant Jewish clientele and definitely markets to kosher consumers. My understanding is that most non-Orthodox who eat kosher meat do not give a rat’s behind whether the meat they eat is glatt or non-glatt. The same may be true with the more liberal elements in the modern Orthodox community, except that brands like Hebrew National (while much better than in the past) are not up to their community’s standards of kashrut. The non-concern of most non-frum Jews explains why the haredim rule the kosher marketplace when it comes to kashrut chumrot. If the rest of the Jewish world boycotted all meat labelled glatt, it might change.

  14. Anonymous

    > My understanding is that most non-Orthodox who eat kosher meat do not give a rat’s behind whether the meat they eat is glatt or non-glatt.

    Most consumers of “kosher” are not even Jewish. That includes those Muslims who allow Shechita as a substitute for Zabihah and other non-Jews buying the kosher = healthier urban legend.

  15. Anonymous

    You appear to know little about anti-trust laws. A distributor is perfectly within its rights to not distribute one brand it sells in order to protect another brand.

    The antitrust laws only prohibit conspiracies in restraint of trade; and only unreasonable ones, at that.
    I do not pretend to know the motive for not selling non-glatt products in one particular market. Does this distributor sell non-glatt in other markets but not this one or does not sell any non-glatt on principle?
    Is there some other reason that makes this market special? Generally, business people sell their product because they make money on it. Why the refusal here.

    Once again, you are long on innuendo and short on facts. You may be right (or wrong) in the end; but this does not excuse making charges without concrete evidence. If you have such evidence, post it.

    (In this regard I point out that a certain person was recently widely accused of arson until it turned out his property was set on fire by vagrants.).

  16. “Does this distributor sell non-glatt in other markets but not this one”?

    Yes.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    “Also, where would they buy such stuff? As I said Hebrew Natioanl isn’t selling much to them, no local Vaad woudl allow non-glatt (David’s) into local butchers.

    Non-glatt is perfectly kosher if the base shechita is kosher. To prevent the sale of non-glatt from shechitas that one accepts is most certainly an anti-trust violation, unless you are dealing with a homoginous community like Satmar. For a Va’ad in Flatbush to this is clearly illegal and ahalakhic.

  17. Stephen Mendelsohn

    BS”D

    I was in ShopRite this evening and noticed in their circular that they were offering their own new brand of glatt kosher hot dogs, certified by the OU and KAJ. In the kosher hot dog section, there were also packages of another new brand, Nathan’s (the Coney Island folks), which was non-glatt and certified by R’ Zeilingold’s UMK. It seems to me that Rubashkin is trying to get around the boycott of his products by marketing them under private labels with no mention of AgriProcessors on the package. One wonders whether the OU or UMK may have recommended this deceptive practice to keep consumers from knowing where their meat was shechted. Watch for more grocery stores, especially in the Northeast, to sport private-label kosher meat to cover for Rubashkin.

  18. Anonymous

    OK.. Here’s the story —

    Both products, Shoprite and Nathan’s are made at Agri, but neither is an Agri product.

    The Shoprite product has been in the works for about a year. The Nathan’s is more recent.

    In each case their respective brands approached Agri to produce the products for them, commonly known in the food industry as ‘co-packing’. This means a company or brand asks a manufacturer with specific capabilities to make product that they themselves cannot. They may or may not have a special recipe/formula, the product is produced and paid for. Any marketing, selling, branding is done by the company, not the manufacturer.

    These 2 cases are certainly not any way for Agri/OU/KAJ to disguise themselves.

    Shoprite simply paid AGri to make product, they then took all of it to the SR warehouse.

    In the case of Nathan’s, the company selling the product did this in a small way to compete with Hebrew National. This is also the same compnay that sells Nathan’s non-kosher dogs at retail. (BTW- this company itself is a licensee, meaning they pay Nathan’s for the right to use the name, they are not actaully Nathan’s.

    Again, there are many things to beat up on the OU/KAJ about, this isn’t one of them.

  19. Anonymous

    “Non-glatt is perfectly kosher if the base shechita is kosher. To prevent the sale of non-glatt from shechitas that one accepts is most certainly an anti-trust violation, unless you are dealing with a homoginous community like Satmar. For a Va’ad in Flatbush to this is clearly illegal and ahalakhic.”

    I never said it wasn’t kosher, just that the majority of kosher consumers wouldn’t/don’t buy it.

    Why is it illegal, or even ahalachic, for a Vaad in Flatbush to subscribe to a Chumra? For whatever reason they decided the standard for their Hashgacha is Glatt, you may say its not necessary, but they can enforce any rules they’d like. It’s certainly not illegal to set a religious standard and keep to it.

    The basic reason most people only buy glatt is because up until recently, (or at least since the mid 70’s) the only mass available non-glatt was Hebrew National and similar others, where the schechita and kashering process was suspect. Now there is more non-glatt, mostly from Agri.

  20. It’s illegal if the product is indeed kosher. If the Va’ad of Flatbush bans it because it wants everyone to keep glatt, but not all rabbis and shuls agree, then it is illegal – especially if reasons other than the allegedly religious are brought into play.

    Why is it ahalakhic? Because no kashrut vaad has the halakhic authority to force humrot down Jews’ throats.

  21. Anonymous

    Once again, your understanding of the antitrust laws is minimal.

    It is not an antitrust violation to prevent the sale of non-glatt products, unless there is a conspiracy in restraint of trade. To have a conspiracy, you must have an agreement between two independent actors (for example, a parent company can not “conspire” with a subsidiary, since they are not considered independent.

    Even if there is an agreement, the resraint must be unreasonable. In addition, the Constitution of the United States protects freedom of religion. A rabbinical organization may be free to do things that a trade group can not, if it is done to further religious observance. For that reason, an agreement to not sell non-glatt meat in a certain area may be constitutionally protected. In other words, legal.

    Without knowing the precise agreement (assuming one exists) and the parties involved, it is virtually impossible to pass on the legality of the agreement.

    However, my first impression opinion is that an agreement by the VAAD and a kosher maet distributor not to sell non-glatt meat in Flatbush would be protected by the First Amendment. In addition, a simple refusal by the VAAD to give its hashgacha to a distributor which sells non-glatt meat is certainly not a violation of the antitrust laws, because unilateral refusals to deal are legal.

  22. Neo-Conservaguy

    “The same may be true with the more liberal elements in the modern Orthodox community, except that brands like Hebrew National (while much better than in the past) are not up to their community’s standards of kashrut.”

    Notice the expression “standards of kashrut” – it’s a clever way many Orthodox rabbis are using to avoid saying “not kosher enough”, because it would be a lie to say “not kosher”. I’m not pinning it on Stephen, just pointing out I’ve seen this phrase a lot recently.

    Hebrew National is kosher without qualification or doubt. They have been inspected by multiple groups and declared to have state of the art slaughter facilities utilizing Grandin pens and are staffed by shomer-mitsvoth Orthodox shochtim. Period, full stop.

  23. Stephen Mendelsohn

    BS”D

    Regarding the kashrut of Hebrew National, I was not taking a personal position either way. If anything, I would certainly prefer my meat-eating friends to choose HN over Rubashkin’s or Alle/MealMart, although I would be careful about saying this to someone who is very partisanly Orthodox. I was merely describing the opinions of modern Orthodox rabbis. See for instance http://www.asbi.org/kashrut/index.htm

  24. Suzanne Bring

    Um, folks? Remember the workers? Those 800-or-so people who might, in fact, be subject to serious exploitation, misery, even brutality? Any chance we can discuss that and how we can affect that? These are real lives of real people!

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