Letter From Rabbi Menachem Genack in the New York Times

15 Aug 2008

To the Editor of The New York Times

August 6, 2008

Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld discussed the troubling accusations that have been raised against Agriprocessors, Inc. (“Dark Meat”, August 6) and questioned the response of the Orthodox Union to these charges. The Orthodox Union believes that the various social and ethical issues, such as workers rights and safety, protection of the environment and animal welfare are significant and indeed, ultimately rooted in biblical and Jewish tradition.

We believe, however, that the definition, assessment, and enforcement of these standards are best placed in the hands of those governmental agencies that have the expertise, resources, and regulatory authority to deal with them appropriately. There are currently various investigations in progress at the federal and state level; due process is something to which Agriprocessors is entitled and with which the Orthodox Union will not interfere. Upon completion of these investigations, the Orthodox Union will take swift and appropriate action as warranted by the conclusions.

Our reaction over the past several years has been to respond with alacrity even to allegations. We were responsible for calling in Dr. Temple Grandin, a noted veterinary authority, to visit the plant and to recommend appropriate procedures with regard to treatment of animals. More recently, we insisted that Agriprocessors install a competent compliance officer, and they responded by appointing Mr. Jim Martin, the former U.S. attorney of St. Louis, who has already set up a rigorous system of evaluating all employee documentation, and a hotline for complaints. A former OSHA official has been installed to guarantee the safety of the employees. We have also insisted that the company install new independent and credible management; the former CEO, a family-member, stepped down, and a search for his replacement has been initiated. Agriprocessors is aware that the consequences of its failure to satisfy our expectations will include the revocation of our certification.

Throughout this process, we have assiduously strived to strike the balance between fairness, due process, and the obligation to the kosher consumer.
In the future, for the company to continue to function, it must do so in total conformity to ethical standards and to civil and kosher law.

Rabbi Menachem Genack

Rabbinic Administrator and CEO, OU Kosher

New York, NY

Listen to Rabbi Genack’s interview on NPR – WNYC