A kosher-meat crisis has been gripping the city. From Supersol, a kosher supermarket on the Upper West Side, to Glatt Mart in Flatbush, meat departments have been struggling to maintain supply. Even FreshDirect lists ten kosher meat products as temporarily unavailable. It’s all because Agriprocessors, a Brooklyn-based company that’s the country’s largest kosher-meat supplier, has been facing crippling labor problems. “Their supply used to be endless,” laments Dov Bauman, owner of Glatt Mart, who’s been scrambling to fill his poultry cases.
In May, federal authorities conducted the largest single-site immigration raid in U.S. history at Agriprocessors’ Postville, Iowa, meatpacking plant, arresting more than a third of the workforce—389 employees, including eighteen juveniles. The plant’s owner, Brooklyn Hasid Aaron Rubashkin, has been struggling to keep up production ever since, but replacement workers bused in from around the country haven’t stuck around. One employment agency pulled its 150 temp laborers within days, citing safety concerns. Lately the company has resorted to recruiting the homeless from Texas. “We got a big mess, no question about it,” the 80-year-old Rubashkin told the JTA news agency in an interview outside his Brooklyn shop. The mess is getting bigger: Since the raid, female employees have reportedly complained they were offered promotions in exchange for sexual favors, and allegations surfaced in the press of a methamphetamine lab in operation at the plant. More than a dozen state and federal agencies are investigating the company.
Even as they’re faced with a meat shortage, some Orthodox Jews are outraged by the allegations. One group has gathered 1,300 signatures for a boycott aimed at pressuring the company to promise compliance with U.S. labor laws, and last week a consortium called for “structural change” in the kosher-meat industry and attention to the ethical as well as ritual aspects of keeping kosher. But Rubashkin has denied all wrongdoing. “Everything is a lie,” he said. “We are ethical people. We don’t do no injustice to nobody—not to a cat.”
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