A raid on a meat plant in Iowa bearing the Orthodox Union’s kosher symbol caused a supply problem in US kosher markets, but also caused some to raise new issues about the meaning of the term “kosher.”
On May 12, US immigration authorities raided Agriprocessors’ plant in Postville, IA and arrested 390 illegal immigrant workers (out of 800 employees in Postville). By early June, this meant there was less kosher meat available and prices for it rose, since Agriprocessors supplies 60 percent of US kosher meat and 40 percent of kosher chicken, reports Sue Fishkoff (Jewish Telegraphic Agency, June 6).
Moreover, a number of rabbis have started to question the morality of producing kosher meat while abusing underpaid migrant workers. It is true that there is no rule that food produced by abused or underpaid illegal workers becomes forbidden to eat, writes Rabbi Shlomo Levin (spiritual leader of Milwaukee’s Modern Orthodox Lake Park Synagogue), but the issue is “to know if it is kosher to buy” (J., June 13). He suggests that an addition to the current kosher supervision system would be welcome for kosher consumers in order to help them with their purchasing decisions.
The Conservative movement released a policy statement defining the qualifying process for its future certification; it will indicate “that a kosher product was made in compliance with a set of social justice criteria”. This also marks an attempt by Conservative rabbis to influence the kosher food market, traditionally dominated by the Orthodox, writes Ben Harris (Jewish Telegraphic Agency, July 31).
(Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), http://www.jta.org; J. [a northern Californian Jewish newsweekly], http://www.jewishsf.com)