The Dishonesty of OU Kosher – Plus, A Kosher Quiz

This week’s Forward has a response written by the head of OU Kosher, Rabbi Menachem Genack, to Marc Shapiro’s piece criticizing the OU’s move to more stringent kosher standards, specifically to glatt-only meat. Rabbi Genack, also a YU rosh yeshiva, is both disingenuous and dishonest in his response. Here’s why.

Rabbi Genack writes:

Discerning kosher consumers began to demand glatt kosher meat, which was more carefully controlled — not because they wanted glatt per se, but because they wanted to be assured that the meat was indeed kosher. Thus it was consumer demand that made glatt the dominant standard in the marketplace, not some fiat by the O.U.

But kosher meat production by its very definition means any production will produce glatt, non-glatt and non-kosher product. The production’s glatt output is only as good as its regular kosher output – both depend on the quality of supervision. If the OU’s glatt was kosher, so then was its non-glatt.

What Rabbi Genack does not tell you is the OU’s move to glatt only opened up the regular kosher market to rabbis who saw themselves as making kosher for Conservative and Reform Jews. What this meant was a wholesale lowering of existing standards and in turn a large increase in fraud. As I heard first hand twenty-plus years ago from schochtim, mashgichim and kosher producers alike, “It’s okay! Orthodox Jews don’t eat this stuff, anyway.”

The OU’s shift to glatt-only created that situation. It also made the OU appear “more frum,” and – according to what some claim – allowed the OU to charge more for its supervision, and have greater penetration in haredi areas of Brooklyn.

Marc Shapiro also noted the OU’s ahalakhic shift from certifying products produced on dairy equipment but themselves containing no dairy with an OU to the now-standard OU-D (dairy) designation. Rabbi Genack responds:

Mixing meat and dairy, Shapiro also criticizes the OU-D designation, as if to imply this is part of a further rightward move by the O.U. The OU-D designation was created so that the consumer could easily identify dairy products and not have to rely on reading, and at times interpreting, ingredient listings. Products that contain no dairy ingredients, but which are produced on dairy equipment, are also designated OU-D so as to ensure that they will not be eaten at a meat meal. There is no hidden ideology here, just honest information.

Again, Rabbi Genack is simply disingenuous. Many hashgachot used the D.E. (dairy equipment) designation. The OU could have done so as well, but chose not to. It is this choice Shapiro rightly criticizes.

Now, a Yoreh Dayah quiz for you. You make rice in a clean dairy pot, thinking you’ll serve it for dinner in a dairy Indian recipe. At last minute, you remember Aunt Millie’s meat chili, sitting in the refrigerator for the last three days. You change your mind and decide to have the chili. But you have no more rice. Can you eat the meat chili together with the rice made in the dairy pot? If yes, why? If no, why not?

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13 Comments

Filed under Haredim, Jewish Leadership, Kosher Business?, Kosher Meat Scandal, Modern Orthodoxy

13 responses to “The Dishonesty of OU Kosher – Plus, A Kosher Quiz

  1. Ma Rabbi

    Depends if the dairy pot had been used for cooked milicheg food in the last 24 hours or not.

  2. Nope. Not necessarily.

  3. Ma Rabbi

    The rice is NOTBARNOT DHETERA, but that only allows you to eat the rice before or after the meat chile. You would not be allowed to pour the hot chile on the rice.

  4. Not necessarily. It depends on how a ben yomo is defined, if milk was used during that period or if it was used for pareve food, and other issues.

  5. Franji

    Shady deal hikes cost of lulavim

    and how much will we save here in north america on the recently uncovered lulav cartel?

    Following investigation of lulav cartel, cost of this year’s lulavim to be reduced by 50 percent

    Buki Naeh & David Nissim Published: 08.23.06, 13:08

  6. SA

    This article makes no sense — and not only because of what you pointed out that all glatt meat comes with non-glatt as well. Genack says that supervisions weren’t reliable. But the OU used to supervise non-glatt. If they continued to do so people would eat it. If Genack really believes what he says that it’s the supervision that is important, then why doesn’t the OU supervise non-glatt?

  7. Neo-Conservaguy

    My guess if that the rice would be eaten with the meat meal by most Sephardim, and not by most Askenazim.

  8. Nigritude Ultramarine

    because they wanted to be assured that the meat was indeed kosher

    LOL! I like mustard with my bologna.

    FWIW, it’s more important to keep חלב ישראל than גלאט.

    For the OU, Glatt == Big Buck$

  9. sigal

    I believe that it is actually more expensive for them to keep non-glatt to a good standard of kashrus. This has been explained to me as follows (by a relative who was a mashgiach — but only for chickens — at Empire and Margereten, who is no longer alive, so this is all from memory): A reliable mashgiach qualified to rule on adhesions is harder to find and more expensive than a “glatt” mashgiach. i.e. you need to be less of an expert to make sure it is smooth than to rule on it when it is not smooth. Therefore, where there is a serious question of an adhesion, it is cheaper to sell the meat as non-kosher than to have on staff an “expensive” mashgiach to check it. This made sense to me at the time — has anyone else heard this?

    Basically, this means that our standards for meat have not gone up, our standards for mashgiachs have gone down . . .

  10. Anonymous

    If it is even a suffeik dairy ben yomo, even l’chatchila it is ok to eat with meat

  11. Modern Jew

    Maybe you experts could answer this for me-Suppose a jew accidentally eats a ham sandwich-then realizes it. Can he drink milk within six hours or must he wait? On one had he has eaten meat-but he shouldn’t have eaten it.

    This question has puzzled me for am sure one of you kosher gadolim can answer the question

  12. mb

    Maybe you experts could answer this for me-Suppose a jew accidentally eats a ham sandwich-then realizes it. Can he drink milk within six hours or must he wait? On one had he has eaten meat-but he shouldn’t have eaten it.

    This question has puzzled me for am sure one of you kosher gadolim can answer the question

    He is fleishik. Treif or Kosher doesn’t make a difference d’Rabbanan Don’t try it.

  13. I am no rabbi, but treif meat is still meat. You might be confused about whether or not some meat is kosher or not but it’s hard for me to imagine being confused about whether it was meat or not.

    Now, shellfish on the other hand, I would find very perplexing, because fish are pareve. I suppose when in doubt it would be reasonable to treat it as meat, because then you’re at least not going to make another mistake by way of too much lenience. But that’s also the road that lead to the hypocrisies of the Orthodoxy, such as this glatt kosher fiasco.

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