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Suit Charges Hebrew National Products Not Kosher

Hebrew National

Photo Credit: Mishelle Lane

A class action lawsuit filed in May against Hebrew National, manufacturer of kosher meat products in the United States, alleges that the company misrepresents its kashrut standards “as defined by the most stringent Jews who follow Orthodox Jewish Law,” the American Jewish world reported.

Hebrew National products are certified kosher by Triangle K, and its kosher slaughtering is provided by the Midwestern company AER, according to the complaint filed in the Dakota County district court of Minnesota.

The class action lawsuit was filed against ConAgra Foods, doing business as Hebrew National, a Delaware corporation, alleging that AER employees informed the company of procedures at slaughterhouses that were in such direct violation of kashrut laws that they “rendered the meat being processed not kosher.”

The suit also accuses the company of mistreating its employees, especially its kosher supervisors and slaughterers. The firm AER provides the kosher slaughtering services at Hebrew National facilities in the Midwest.

Employees who complained about the inappropriate actions were fired or transferred, the suit claims.

Among the complaints is that non-kosher meat was packaged and labeled as kosher meat. The complaints also said that the lungs were not inspected well enough for imperfections and that some cows were slaughtered incorrectly.

The suit also alleges that the employees were paid in violation of American tax laws.

Shlomo Ben-David, owner of AER Services Inc., said in an interview with Failed Messiah, who also offers a copy of the suit online, that the allegations in the suit were too vague and did not cite specific facts regarding the violations.

But the suit, which goes through an exhaustive discussion of kosher meat requirements, is quite specific regarding the complaints of AER employees. Item 77 reads:

“When dirt or growths are on the animal’s neck the mandatory clean cut necessary for kosher slaughter (and ultimate certification) cannot be made. Meat from unclean animals (i.e. those with dirty hides covered with mud, sand or stones) or animals with physical; defects is improperly marked as kosher… Dirt on the animal dulls the knives or causes nicks during cutting and the slaughters cannot make the mandatory clean cut.”

AER leased space from American Foods Group, LLC, which delivered cattle to its facilities “to be slaughtered, inspected and certified.” Item 78 alleges:

“Pressure is put on the employees inspecting and slaughtering the cows to maximize kosher meat production by slaughtering unclean cows. Further, certain quotas are applied at the AFG facilities to ensure that a certain predetermined amount of the total cattle population (approx. 70-75%) brought to the AFG facility for slaughter produces kosher meat to provide defendant. By setting artificial, pre-determined quotas, the kosher inspection process becomes defective and unreliable. Meat from cows that should not qualify for kosher certification ends up being marked kosher.”

The suit also alleges that “to speed the process, animals can be killed by using an air compressor gun with a hollow bolt piston immediately after the animal’s throat is cut.”

JTA content was used in this article.

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9 Responses to “Suit Charges Hebrew National Products Not Kosher”

  1. Hava Yoga says:

    Triangle K isn't a recognized Hechsher by Orthodox standards, so… Why is anyone surprised to find this out? If I can't use canned vegetables Hechshered by triangle K, then why on earth would I suspect the meat would be o.k.

  2. FINALLY…..THE TRUTH!

  3. FINALLY…THE TRUTH!

  4. Chaiya Eitan says:

    They will lose a lot of business!

  5. Hava Yoga says:

    If you're Orthodox, you know triangle K is not an acceptable hechsher, ya think this might be why!? Hmmmm. . . . . If one can't even use triangle K for their canned veggies, what might that say of the potential kashrus of their meats? I've had people argue with me that this is a kosher product and I still refused to relent that it isn't, I'm so glad I didn't give in to "peer pressure."

  6. If these allegations are true, Triangle K will have proven themselves to be morally bankrupt.

  7. Moe Joe says:

    why would you not publish r ralbag's clear refutation even failed messiah did!
    enclosed I converted it from failed messiah and pasted it.
    this statement sheds some light on the real story, apparently some disgruntled shochtim who were dismissed for not living up to par with kashrus standards decided to make themselves righteous and revenge with cla$$ action.

    STATEMENT OF THE TRIANGLE-K.

    Outrageously false and defamatory allegations have been made by anonymous disgruntled individuals against Triangle-K’s strict rabbinical supervision of Hebrew National products in a complaint filed in court against the company that owns Hebrew National.
    Those who make the false allegations know full well that because their identities are concealed and their false statements are made in a court pleading, Triangle-K and its principals cannot sue them for defamation. The court complaint is filed on behalf of 11 consumers, none of whom claims to keep kosher, and all allege that they buy Hebrew National products only because they are represented to be “a higher quality product.”.
    If any person making such an allegation against Triangle-K has the integrity to do so in a manner that subjects him to a defamation lawsuit, Triangle-K and its principals will promptly institute proceedings against that person in a rabbinic court (“Beit Din”) and, if authorized by the rabbinic court, will file a defamation lawsuit against the person, company, or organization responsible for such slander and libel.
    The fact is that, contrary to the defamatory allegations, Triangle-K has substantially increased and improved the kashrut supervision on Hebrew National products since it began its supervision in 2004.

    1. Kashrut of the slaughtering operation. – Triangle-K instituted a process under which slaughtering is now done with a team of two or three shochtim constantly in the kill box (depending on each specific plant). Each shochet on the team slaughters not more than a prescribed quota of cattle, and the knife used for the shechitah is examined before and after every slaughter for possible nicks by the shochet or by another member of the team. The team continuously slaughters in rotation. This ensures that no shochet becomes weary and careless and that the knives are always free of nicks. In addition each shochet is required to have numerous knives ready to slaughter with. Contrary to the false anonymous allegation in the court complaint, Hebrew National products are consistently slaughtered in the prescribed manner required to be considered kosher.

    2. Examination of cattle before and after shechitah. – Only cattle that are free from physical defects and clean enough are slaughtered for kosher consumption. Triangle-K requires an examination of all cattle to insure that the clean cut necessary for kosher slaughter can be made and that the cattle can, after examination, be qualified for kosher consumption. In addition to prescribing a team of shochtim, Triangle-K instituted the requirement that there be two examiners (“bodkim”). One is a bodek pnim, who examines each animal’s lung while it is still in the animal. The other is a bodek chutz, who examines the animal’s lung after it has been removed and who inflates it. In some plants two bodkei pnim and two bodkei chutz are constantly on the line. Triangle-K represents that Hebrew National’s product is stam kosher, not glatt kosher. Its goal in providing the supervision to Hebrew National products is to make 100% stam kosher meat available to general consumers throughout the United States. Triangle-K also places numerous mashgichim at various points on the production line who make specific markings and simanim to ensure the correct labeling on the kosher-approved cattle.

    3. Examination of knives. – Because of the “team” requirement instituted by Triangle-K, the knives used in the slaughtering process are constantly inspected to ensure that they have no nicks. Knives are checked after each shechitah, and if a nick is found the animal is marked non-kosher. Each evening, all Rabbis and shochtim are also required to present their knives to the Rosh-Tsevet (Crew manager) for inspection to make sure the knives do not have any nicks. In addition, cattle are not certified as kosher if an air compressor gun was used on the animal prior to shechitah.

    4. Post-slaughter inspection. – All slaughtered cattle are carefully examined by a bodek pnim and by a bodek chutz. It is totally false and defamatory to say, as the court complaint declares anonymously, that the organs of animals used in Hebrew National products are “not consistently inspected after the slaughter.”.

    5. Removal of blood. – Triangle-K drains all slaughtered cattles’ blood and washes it in accordance with the strictest standards of Jewish Law. Allegations that the soaking, salting and washing are inadequate are totally false. Allegations that the carcass is halachically cooked before it is salted are totally false.

    6. Disciplining of shochtim. – Triangle-K has required the dismissal of shochtim and bodkim who failed to comply with the high standards instituted by Triangle-K. It has never reprimanded or subjected to retaliatory measures any employee who objected to the “slaughter of dirty cows.” Nor has the Triangle-K asked any employee “to look the other way” if he saw a violation of kosher laws. Each plant’s head shochet and bodek reports to the Triangle-K on a weekly basis. The shochtim and bodkim are constantly tested and checked in surprise visits by Triangle-K for their knowledge of the halachic material and for their skills. Some shochtim and bodkim whose employment was terminated because of their failure to adhere to Triangle-K’s high standards may have initiated the false allegations on which the court complaint was based.

    We strongly re-affirm that the Triangle-K Kashrus symbol on Hebrew National products guarantees that the product is 100% strictly Kosher.

    The Triangle K Rabbinic team is always available to answer specific questions about any part of the process of the shechitha. We base our our strict kosher certification on the writings and decisions of the greatest scholars and poskim of the last few hundred years of Rabbinic Jewish law and literature.

    Rabbi Aryeh Ralbag – Triangle K Kosher Supervision.

  8. Stephen Leavitt says:

    There's a followup article going up within a few days (which will also mention recent Ralbag press release).

  9. If you wish to hold yourself to a higher standard than that demanded by R. Ralbag, fine; but to the world that is not caught up in "frummer than thou", there are few authorities with a longer history of knowledge of the food service industry.

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