Agriprocessors is the corporate identity of a slaughterhouse and meat-packaging factory that is in an incorporated area of Postville, Iowa, best known as a facility for the glatt kosher processing of cattle, as well as chicken, turkey, duck, lamb, and veal. [ [ Iowa Best Beef] ] It is the largest kosher meat-packing plant in the United States. [,0,4871703.story Topic Galleries - ] ]

The firm was founded by Aaron Rubashkin, who purchased the meat-packing facility in 1987. Two-thirds of Agriprocessors' output is non-kosher and is marketedunder the brand Iowa Best Beef. [ Agriprocessors web page] ] Its kosher products are marketed under the brand names Aaron’s Best, Shor HaBor and Rubashkins. The current CEO is the founder's son, Sholom Rubashkin.


Rubashkin opened the Postville plant in 1987. [ [ "USDA Investigating Kosher Meat Plant", Alan Cooperman, Washington Post, December 31, 2004] ] Rubashkin, a Brooklyn butcher, made plans to take advantage of economic structural changes to bring mass-production and economies of scale to the kosher meat production business. Postville, a town undergoing a major employment crisis would eventually become the site of his plant. In the 20 years since its construction, AgriProcessors has had a major impact on the town - with new jobs, and an influx of Jews. [ [ "Strangers in Our Midst", E. J. Graff, The American Prospect, November 22, 2001] ] The impact of the plant has often been controversial, including frequent citations for illegal practices, including the knowing recruitment of illegal immigrants and inducing them to work in often dangerous conditions at illegal wages. The plant and the cultural and legal problems surrounding it were the subject of the 2000 book . The author, Stephen Bloom has been criticized by some as having anti religious bias.

Rubashkin brought modern industrial methods to what has historically been a small, almost boutique craft. [ [ Company History of Agriprocessors] ] The plant currently employs over 800 people. [ "Tribe, Jewish family open kosher packing plant", Joe Duggan, Lincoln Journal Star, Jun 30, 2006] ]

The Rubashkin family opened a new processing plant in conjunction with the Oglala Lakota native-American tribe of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in Gordon, Nebraska in 2006. The presence of the plant on an Indian reservation provides considerable tax breaks for Rubashkin, while the plant employs some 100 locals. Governor Dave Heineman presented a $505,000 gratuity check to Rubashkin on behalf of the city of Gordon, part of an incentive package that brought the factory to the town.

Animal abuse controversy

In late 2004, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals released an unusually gory video filmed undercover at Agriprocessors, showing cattle having their tracheas and esophagi being ripped out of their necks and surviving for minutes after shechita. [ [ PETA Video showing animal abuse (caution)] ] Noted animal welfare expert and meat scientist Temple Grandin called Agriprocessors procedures an "atrocious abomination" and worse than anything she had ever seen in over 30 kosher abattoirs. [ [ New York Times, Videos Cited in Calling Kosher Slaughterhouse Inhumane] ]

Jewish authorities were split, with former Chief Rabbi of Ireland, David Rosen, [ [ Statement of Rabbi David Rosen,Former Chief Rabbi of Ireland] ] and Shechita UK, along with many non-Orthodox rabbis from the Conservative movement, criticizing Agriprocessors, while Orthodox kashrut organizations continued to stand by the kashrut of the meat. An internal report from the USDA not only held that Agriprocessors engaged in acts of inhumane slaughter, but that FSIS inspectors were sleeping on the job, playing computer games, and had accepted bribes of free meat to ignore violations at the plant. [ [ New York Times, Inquiry Finds Lax Federal Inspections at Kosher Meat Plant] ]

On June 27, 2006, at the suggestion of Rabbi Menachem Genack of the Orthodox Union, Temple Grandin toured the facility. According to the Orthodox Union, Dr. Grandin was satisfied with what she saw. [ [ Orthodox Union, Prof. Grandin is Satisfied With AgriProcessors Slaughter Practices] ] [ [ "Animal rights expert endorses Kosher plant", The Forward, July 07, 2006] ] .

Recent developments


On August 31, 2006. Agriprocessors signed a consent decree where they essentially admitted discharging untreated slaughtering wastewater into the Postville sewerage system, in violation of Federal and Iowa State law and paid a $600,000 fine for violating waste-water regulations [ AgriProcessors to Pay $600,000 in Environmental Case | Region 7 | US EPA ] ] [ AgriProcessors Inc. Wastewater Settlement ] ] [ Waukon "Standard", April 26, 2007.] Untreated wastewater from abattoirs is a heavy burden on wastewater treatment plants because of its high biochemical oxygen demand and high concentration of FOG (Fats, oils, and grease) which can form insoluble plaques in sewerage pipes.

Starting in 2004, city authorities started an investigation against Agriprocessors due to complaints from local residents that they routinely deposited untreated effluence into local rivers in breach of regulations. On August 31, 2006. Agriprocessors signed a consent decree and paid a $600,000 fine for violating waste-water regulations.

Federal immigration raid

On 12 May 2008, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) staged a raid that was described as the largest in the history of the United States.Fact|date=September 2008 Federal authorities arrested hundreds of illegal immigrant workers during the raid. ICE spokesman Tim Counts said that "The raid was aimed at seeking evidence of identity theft, stolen Social Security numbers and for people who are in the country illegally" . According to the U.S. attorney's office for the Northern District of Iowa, those arrested "include 290 Guatemalans, 93 Mexicans, 2 Israelis and 4 Ukrainians" [ [ Immigration Raid Jars a Small Town - ] ] . Sources quoted in the affidavit and application for search warrant alleged the existence of a methamphetamine laboratory at the slaughterhouse, and that employees carried weapons to work. Much was made of these charges in the press.weal Others notedweal that the document contained many inconsistencies and self-contradictions, casting doubt on the allegations. Among the many inaccuraciesPOV-statement|date=September 2008 in the document is the identification by the sources of an area to the south of the plant as a production area, which it is not.Fact|date=September 2008

The Rubashkin family was reported in the "Cedar Rapids Gazette" on June 5, 2008, to have denied any criminal activity; Aaron Rubashkin said that he did not know "workers were illegal and that they had produced what appeared to be legitimate work documents". [Adam Belz, "Agriprocessors hires legal assistance", "Cedar Rapids Gazette", June 5, 2008, p. B1.] Yet, in an earlier labor relation case discussed below, the firm had made use of the argument that it knew that some of the employees at another of its facilities, in Brooklyn, NY, were illegal immigrants.

The ICE raid left the company lacking employees, and it hired Labor Ready to supply "about 150 workers", but these workers stopped working because of alleged safety issues. ["Cedar Rapids Gazette", June 1, 2008, p. 2B] The Jacobson Staffing company took the job of staffing the plant shortly thereafter.

In June 2008, Agriprocessors began hiring workers from homeless shelters in Texas to replace employees detained in the federal immigration raid. [Ben Harris, [ "Agriprocessors brings homeless from Texas to keep Iowa plant open"] , "Jewish Telegraphic Agency", August 20, 2008.]

5W Public Relations impersonating rabbi critic

In June 2008, Agriprocessors hired 5W Public Relations in an attempt to repair its tarnished public image. Shortly thereafter, a large number of suspicious posts defending the company appeared on Jewish blogs critical of the company. Shmarya Rosenberg, author of the Failed Messiah blog, revealed 5W's sockpuppeting scheme on his blog after two fraudulent posts appeared under the name of Rabbi Morris Allen of Hechsher Tzedek, a critic of Agriprocessors. [ [ Forward, Flacks for Agriprocessors Admit Online Impersonation of Meat Company’s Critics] ] Similar comments impersonating Rabbi Allen were found on the websites of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and Vos Iz Neias. [ [ Jerusalem Post, Agriprocessors' PR company accused of identity theft] ] Ronn Torossian, CEO of 5W, admitted that a "senior staff member failed to be transparent in dealing with client matters." [ [ Forward, Meat Company’s P.R. Firm Acknowledges Responsibility of ‘Senior Staff Member’ in Online Deception] ]

Labor relations

In September 2005, workers at Agriprocessors’ distribution site in Brooklyn, New York, voted to join the United Food and Commercial Workers union. The company challenged the vote, claiming that the majority of workers who voted were in the US illegally, making their votes invalid despite protection granted undocumented workers in the National Labor Relations Act. Workers alleged that Agriprocessors paid low wages, failed to pay overtime and immediately terminated employment of workers who complained about conditions or wages. [Nathaniel Popper, "In Rubashkins’ Backyard, Another Tale of Labor Strife Kosher Giant Turns To Supreme Court in Fight With Immigrants", "Jewish Daily Forward", mirrored at [] , retrived 2008-08-18]

Additional animal abuse controversy

On August 13, 2008, animal rights activists shot footage showing instances in which Agriprocessor employees made unauthorized multiple hacking cuts in the necks of still-conscious animals. These instances do not represent a violation of U.S. Food Safety rules, but respected food safety expert Temple Grandin said the second cuts would “definitely cause the animal pain.” [ [ Kosher Plant Is Accused of Inhumane Slaughter] ] Furthermore, these instances represent further violations of kosher law.

Child labor violations

On September 9, 2008, Agriprocessors, its owner and three of its current or past managers were each charged with more than 9,000 violations of child labor laws. [ [ - Slaughterhouse charged with using child labor, September 9, 2008] ]

Kosher beef shortage

The immigration raid led to a shortage of kosher beef nation-wide, with the expected rise in price; there was a similar price rise in kosher poultry. [June 15, 2008, Associated Press, Cedar Rapids Gazette, June 15, 2008, p.2D]


ee also

* Shechita

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