Highlights from my interview with Dr. Temple Grandin, the world's leading expert on all methods of animal slaughter, can be read after the jump.
Yesterday, I interviewed Dr. Temple Grandin, considered to be the world's leading expert on animal slaughter of all types, and who is known for being a friend of kosher slaughter. Even though I'm writing a feature on this scandal, I'm posting some highlights from my interview with Dr. Grandin now as a public service:
1. Dr. Grandin offered to go to Postville without charge (except for airfare and expenses) to assess the situation for the Rubashkins and make recommendations for changes to improve the slaughter process. That offer included working with the upside-down slaughter the Rubashkin's want to keep in order to sell their meat to Israel. The offer was refused.
2. No one from AgriProcessors has called her since the scandal broke.
3. Rabbi Menachem Genack of the OU called her Friday about the situation and possible improvements at the Postville slaughterhouse.
4. "The problem is not kosher slaughter," Dr. Grandin said. It's AgriProcessors poor quality and atrocious handling of animals both before and after slaughter.
5. Major restaurant chains will not accept meat from AgriProcessors because of this. Dr. Grandin thinks that most of Rubashkin's non-kosher meat is sold to small restaurants in the Chicago area. "McDonald's would never accept meat from a plant run like AgriProcessors," Dr. Grandin said. "AgriProcessors could not pass an audit" in its present state of operation.
6. AgriProcessors is not in the audit system used by major restaurant and food chains. Other kosher slaughterhouses are in that system and do very well.
7. The moo/bellow rate is one measure of how well animals are treated by slaughterhouses before and during slaughter. The lower the rate, the better the treatment.
8. A normal, well-run kosher or non-kosher slaughterhouse has a moo/bellow rate of about 5%. AgriProcessors moo/bellow rate is close to 50%.
9. Dr. Grandin went to Europe and inspected upside-down kosher slaughter using a rotating pen. The distress rate for the animals there was much lower than at Rubashkin's slaughterhouse.
10. AgriProcessors seems to be using electric prods "way too much."
11. "I've never seen a second cut done this way," Dr. Grandin said, referring to AgriProcessor's throat-ripping process shown on the PETA video.
12. There are ways to tell if an animal is still conscious after shechita. Many of the animals on the PETA/Rubashkin video were conscious after being dumped from the pen. All were conscious when the throat-ripping was done.
13. In Canada, if an animal has not collapsed 15 seconds after shechita, it is stunned and marked as non-kosher.
14. Since that law was put into effect, kosher slaughterhouses have concentrated on training their shochtim to do better, more efficient cuts, in part using information supplied by Dr. Grandin.
15. At these Canadian kosher slaughterhouses, 92% of the animals collapse into unconsciousness within 10 seconds of shechita.
16. McDonald's uses the non-kosher meat from those Canadian kosher slaughterhouses.
17. The conveyor belt used to transport live chickens to slaughter at AgriProcessors as shown in the PETA video is "obviously poorly maintained." In that video, live chickens were shown crushed in the conveyor belt mechanism.
18. She suspects that the throat-ripping/esophagus-pulling seen in the PETA video is done to prevent head contamination from ruminant contents, which would cause the USDA to condemn the head. Cheek meat from the heads is used for ground beef. The tongue is sold as a deli specialty and as a standard cut of beef.
19. It also may be done to prevent blood spots and bruises on the meat caused by poor handling and drainage.
20. Kosher slaughter done in Uruguay under the supervision of [the OU's] Rabbi Tietlebaum is done by attaching a chain to the animal's hind leg and then wrestling the animal to the floor where 4 or 5 workers hold the animal in place, upside-down, for shechita. "This is an absolutely terrible system," Dr. Grandin said, "and it's also very dangerous for the workers."
21. [It seems to be that meat from Uruguay is sold under the Alle/MealMart/Schrieber's labels in North America. Some may also be imported to Israel. I am working to confirm this.]
Highlights of my second interview with Dr. Grandin done on January 6, 2005, can be read here.