I am not going to post an image. Try to visualize a an impoverished worker from a Latin American country, perhaps with an amputated finger or hand – that’s what I visualized reading the article I’m about which I’m writing.
The Forward is reporting that the AgriProcessors meatpacking plant which is the largest in the country, is treating its workers quite shabbily, with poor pay, poor working conditions and lack of safety training. The Forward reporter seems to have done his research and we have the PETA video about the slaughter there as well as a USDA slap on the wrist as other sources of evidence that suggest the Forward’s story can be trusted. While I cannot be certain the reports are completely accurate because they are second hand, I have to admit that I believe them because of the PETA video. If any person connected with AgriProcessors feels this story is illegitimate, you are welcome to contact us with the relevant information. God, I hope you have something to disprove this story because I am utterly disgusted.
Treating workers poorly is a standard feature of the meatpacking industry. However, according to the Forward article, the Iowa based AgriProcessors owned by Aaron Rubashkin (and I presume his family), a Lubavitcher, fares poorly in comparison to other plants. One person is quoted as saying it is the worst plant she has seen in terms of its treatment of workers. The article tells a shameful story and is especially disheartening because this is the largest kosher meatpacking plant in the US. Essentially, if you buy kosher chicken or beef with the Aaron’s Best label on it, one of their private label brands, or simply from a butcher who gets his product from them, not only are you participating in the cruel slaughter of animals as shown in that infamous PETA video, but you are also participating in the shabby and irresponsible treatment of many workers who cannot fend for themselves.
Anybody who purchases kosher meat is well aware of the premium price of the product. It is often 1.5 to 2 times as expensive as standard, non-kosher meat in the supermarkets and often even exceeds or matches the cost of meat at premium butchers and supermarkets where they sell hormone free, grass fed high-quality meat supplied by small farms with ethical slaughtering standards. So why exactly is there such a premium for kosher meat if none of these criteria are met and the workers are treated poorly on top of everything else?
It is time to speak out. If you have to buy kosher meat, call or send a letter of protest to AgriProcessors for forcing you to participate in these shameful acts. Yes, forcing. While it’s well and good for some adults to become vegetarians, it still seems important to feed children a meat-based diet, at least some of the time. Perhaps you are an adult and don’t want to become a vegetarian but will only eat kosher meat, then you are forced to participate, through your purchase, in these unfortunate practices by AgriProcessors because many stores that carry kosher products will only carry one line and it is Aaron’s Best or one of its no-name lines. Send a letter or make a call. Let them know you want them to act differently! They charge enough and make enough to withstand significant changes in how they do business. It should be a premium price for premium meat grown, killed and arranged for selling in the most ethical, healthy and safe manner, not a premium price for forcing those who buy kosher to participate in indecent acts against animals AND humans.
From the article:
“My totally unexamined assumption was that good Orthodox Jews would probably have a different ethos for treatment of their workers”
Seriously, I intend to boycott them until they change or prove the Forward article wrong. Any store from which I buy, and which carries their products will receive a complaint from me.
I will also be buying far less kosher meat overall because while they represent the bad, I fail to understand why I cannot buy kosher meat at its premium price and receive a premium quality product. If somebody wants my business, pay close attention: treat your workers humanely, pay them well and do your best to provide a truly safe and clean environment; only use animals that have been raised humanely, without hormones; be certain to keep away from any possible carcass byproduct in their food; let the animals roam, for god’s sake, don’t keep them locked up; and please, slaughter them as humanely and painlessly as possible.
Need a mailing address, fax or phone number? Don’t be shy, call these people and make them shape up:
Sholom Rubashkin (plant manager)
220 West St.,
Postville IA 52162
Phone: (563)864-7811 or (563) 864-7539; Fax: (563)864-7890