OU Non-Glatt Policy Discussed On Hirhurim; Price Fixing; Answer to Our Kosher Quiz

Rabbi Gil Student posted (uncritically, of course) on Rabbi Menachem Genack’s shameful and misleading article on the OU’s non-glatt policy. I noted here why Rabbi Genack is less than completely honest. Now let me address a comment by Michael Rogovin to that Hirhurim post.

>R’ Teitz of Elizabeth was the last “reliable” non-glatt hashgacha but because of ignorance his butcher was avoided.

Actually, Upper Midwest Kashrut of St Paul MN is listed in the Chicago Rabbinical Council (Triangle CRC) as a reliable hechsher with the note that some meat products are not glatt. Nathan’s kosher hot dogs carry this hechsher and are presumably not glatt, but should be reliable.

Upper Midwest kosher changed its name to United Mehadrin Kosher years ago. A small point, perhaps, but the name is telling. A “mehadrin” hechsher giving supervision to non-glatt meat. But the more you learn about that supervision, the more telling that name becomes.

The UMK is headed by Rabbi Asher Zeilingold, a Chabad hasid and rabbi located in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Rabbi Z, as those who follow this site will remember, is both my former rabbi and a close friend of Rabbi Sholom Rubashkin, the operational head of Agriprocessors and Aaron’s Best. Rabbi Z has given supervision on Rubashkin’s non-glatt for almost 20 years. But that supervision isn’t what you think.

KAJ, the then-head of kashrut supervision for all the varying supervisions at Rubashkin, including the OU, would not put its symbol on non-glatt meat. No haredi supervision would, and the OU would not do so either. So KAJ and Rubashkin made a deal with Rabbi Z that went something like this: You put your name on our non-glatt. KAJ will do all the work. We’ll take care of you. (I think Rabbi Z first had a symbol and adopted Upper Midwest Kosher as a name about this time.)

And this is what went on for many years and may still be happening today–except Rav Wiessmandl has replaced KAJ in the supervision hierarchy.

Anything one could say bad about Triangle-K supervision (see the many uniformed comments on Hirhurim) one could easily say about UMK, especially UMK 10 to 20 years ago. It was primarily because UMK was a fig leaf for KAJ that made its meat acceptable.

The facts of this supervision were known in the industry for years. I heard them first hand from Rabbi Z because the Agudah rabbi of Minneapolis tried to ban this very non-glatt from Minneapolis, and tried all sorts of questionably halakhic devices to stop its sale, including having a proxy drag my partner and I to beit din over this and a trumped up hasagat gevul charge. The Agudah Rav and his proxy lost. The non-glatt was stopped anyway because his friend, the local kosher food distributor, held by the Agudah Rav’s decision even after the beit din ruled against him, and no non-glatt was delivered. For his part, Rubashkin held with the Agudah Rav against his own supervision because of a complicated business deal with that kosher food distributor. This kept the price of kosher meat artificially high. From what I’ve heard since word of the Justice Department investigation into price fixing in the kosher meat industry, stories like mine are not uncommon.

So, when the CRC says UMK non-glatt is reliable, what it’s really saying is Wiessmandl/KAJ/OU non-glatt is reliable, which is why Nathan’s is reliable – if Rubashkin’s animal welfare and other issues don’t bother you.

Which brings us full circle.

Earlier, I posted a Kosher quiz:

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?

A few of you – including one Chabad rabbi who claims semicha from Rabbi Moshe Feinstein – suggested answers. No one answered correctly, although some were much closer than others.

So, here’s the long answer:

If you look at the Piskhei Teshuva 95:2, you’ll see he brings the Pri Megadim and the Chavot Da’at. Both hold like the Shach. The water would be forbidden to eat with meat, but the food cooked in it is permitted. (Actually, the Chavot Da’at would let you use the water with meat as well.) The only real problem here is if the situation involves roasting (tzli) fish (or another pareve food) using meat (or milk) utensils and then eating that food together with the opposite type. This stringency does not apply to regular cooking.

The Shulchan Aruch follows Tosofot and the Rosh in their understanding of Rashi’s opinion. It doesn’t distinguish between roasting or regular cooking – both are permitted, but only if one did not plan to do it. Once the rice is cooked in a clean milk pot, if you change your mind and want to eat it with meat, you can without restriction.

For Sefardim that is the normative halakha.

For Ashkenazim, it is the same with one change–if the food item in question is roasted, some poskim will ask that you remove a k’dei klipa (a thin peeling of the food) before combining it with the opposite type. Others will be stricter and will rule combining roasted pareve food as described above is not permitted.

Now, the short answer: You can eat it.

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12 Comments

Filed under Divre Torah, Kosher Business?, Kosher Meat Scandal, Price-Fixing

12 responses to “OU Non-Glatt Policy Discussed On Hirhurim; Price Fixing; Answer to Our Kosher Quiz

  1. D

    Well, it is certainly refreshing to know that AP’s non-glatt passes muster with Wiessmandl/KAJ/OU…but you did not hear it from us!

    At any rate, the shift toward a glatt preference is understandable given the major changes in kosher meat handling over the past century or so. In years past it meant a major loss when a shechted animal was rendered a treifa. Indeed, that is the circumstance cited by the ReMA for allowing certain sirchos.

    Today, however, the larger meat market is far easier to access for rendition of treif carcasses. Likewise, as asserted earlier on the other thread, there may be increased labor cost associated with the extensive bedika required to pass suspect sirchos. Hence, the economic justification for allowing the ReMA’s sirchos is harder to make. Enter the recent insistence on the glatt standard.

    My takeaway; this story is not all about the latest Chumrah du jour. It is a recognition that the circumstances today are different than in the past and that our practices, as mandated by halacha, need to change with the times.

  2. But you’re wrong on both counts. There is no significant extra cost in producing non-galtt and the market for shechted treife animals is small. Rubashkin isn’t making any money on his treife, even though it makes up about 70% or so of his output. The money is in kosher. So the Rema’s reasons are still valid.

  3. Hebrew National, with the better, more exacting supervision it now has, makes lots of money selling non-glatt. Think about that.

  4. That’s amazing. Very informative. Thank you! 🙂

  5. D

    There is no significant extra cost in producing non-glatt

    That is an assertion by you in contradiction to the assertion on the previous thread. Is there particular evidence to support or refute these assertions?

    and the market for shechted treife animals is small.

    Uh, you call a market of 300 million people small!? I’d hate to see what you call big…

    Rubashkin isn’t making any money on his treife, even though it makes up about 70% or so of his output.

    Perhaps not making a profit but I doubt he is losing his shirt over them. At any rate, selling them to the “small” treife market is far better than the Hefsed Meruba that would result from having to discard them completely as he would have had to do 100 years ago.

  6. D

    And does anyone REALLY know what the deal is with the Delta-K? Is it really reliable? Do we know what their standards are for shitos, presence of mashgichim, site visits, handling of violations, etc.? Would the UMK willingly certify their output at HN; politics aside? I have heard very little about their current status except for the cRc’s acceptance of a few certified products.

  7. Ma. Rabbi

    Whats up with the censorship? I tried 3 times to respond to your answer on the rice question and show you that my analysis was indeed correct and you blocked me 3 times. So much for truth and honesty.

  8. 1. I did not block you. Could be a problem with TypePad. If you send me the details, I’ll check into it.

    2. Your analysis is wrong. This is a standard question on the Rabbinute Isser v’Heter test. I gave the standard, correct answer.

  9. D –

    You don’t understand the market or the economics. Rubashkin treife is lower quality than standard non-Jewish killed beef. This has to do with blood spash, staining and other issues related to slaughter, along with other issues related to the cattle themselves, rather than the process.

    Rubashkin has a tough time selling his treife. If a lot of the treife could be sold for what it really is – kosher non-glatt – Rubashkin could make more money, except for one thing – the price of glatt would fall as the availability of ‘reliable’ non-glatt rises. In part, this seems to be why the OU, etc. will not certify non-glatt.

  10. Neo-Conservaguy

    “This is a standard question on the Rabbinute Isser v’Heter test. I gave the standard, correct answer.”

    Hey – so did I! (Except I left out the roasting exception details ’cause I couldn’t remember them)

    I relied upon a simple theme to derive the answer: Sephardim like good food and are generally sane so they’ll eat it. Ashkenazim, however, rely upon a different theme: why chance it – who knows what the goyim may have done to the pot when we were laying our two pairs of tefillin…? Chas v’shalom that a bug may have crawled into it when we were calling our rav for guidance, and our light table isn’t working today…

  11. NOCLUE

    SOME OF THIS IS VERY CONFUSING. IF HEBREW NATIONAL SCHECHTS ITS MEAT PROPERLY, A CERTAIN PERCENTAGE WILL BE GLATT, EVEN IF THEY DO NOT THROW AWAY THE NON-GLATT. THE PERCENTAGE SHOULD BE THE SAME AS IN A GLATT SLAUGHTERHOUSE.

    ADDITIONALLY, HEBREW NATIONAL SELLS MOSTLY TO NON-jEWISH OR NOT ORTHODOX CUSTOMERS. WHO SAYS THAT THERE IS A MARKET FOR NON-GLATT OUTSIDE OF WHAT HEBREW NATIONAL ALREADY SUPPLIES? IF THERE IS, WHY CAN’T HEBREW NATIONAL SUPPLY IT?

    AS FOR THE SALE OF NON-GLATT DRIVING THE PRICE OF GLATT DOWN, IT APPEARS TO ME THAT OVERALL PROFITS SHOULD NOT BE DIMINISHED, AND MAY GO UP. THIS IS BECAUSE THERE ARE NO ADDITIONAL MARKET PARTICIPANTS IF CONSUMERS BUY NON-GLATT BUT RESTRICT THEIR CONSUMPTION TO PROPERLY SUPERVISED SCHETA. IN ADDITION, THE COST OF PRODUCTION WOULD GO DOWN, SINCE LESS MEAT WOULD BE REJECTED. RUBUSHKIN PRESUMABLY WOULD KNOW THIS SO IF IT DOES NOT SELL NON-GLATT, SOME ASSUMPTION WE ARE MAKING MUST BE INCORRECT. THE PROBABLE INCORRECT ASSUMPTION IS THAT THERE IS A MARKET FOR NON-GLATT OR THE ASSUMPTION THAT THE COST OF INSPECTING NON-GLATT TO ENSURE KASHRUT IS NOT TOO EXPENSIVE.

  12. Anonymous

    It just so happens to be that Rabbis of the UMK check the plant from time to time to make sure that it meets their standards (Knife checking, process etc.) but they do rely on the other hechshers for day to day (as they should)!

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