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June 16, 2012

The Allegations Against Hebrew National

Hebrew-national-logoThe Hebrew National Scandal Part #3: Here are the kosher violations allegedly made by AER Services, Inc. and Triangle-K kosher supervision as listed in the class action lawsuit against ConAgra/Hebrew National.

Hebrew-national-logo

HN Lawsiut 1
HN Lawsuit 2
HN Lawsuit 3
HN Lawsuit 4
HN Lawsuit 5
HN Lawsuit 6
HN Lawsuit 7
HN Lawsuit 8

The issue with the allegedly nicked knives is one that particularly irked Shlomosh Ben-David, AER's president. He told me that there is a dedicated schochet who does nothing but make and check knives, and he couldn't understand how the allegations in the lawsuit could have been made.

It's important to note that at this point, all of those allegation have come from anonymous sources (or one anonymous source), and no documentary evidence has been provided.

Contrast this to Agriprocessors, where we had video evidence, USDA evidence, EPA evidence, evidence from animal welfare activists and large animal biologists and veteranarians, whistleblowing employees and former employees, evidence from ICE and the DOJ, and from others.

On top of that, some of the claims for what kosher slaughter is supposed to made by the lawsuit are exaggerated or false. as is its conception of who is and who is not "stringent" in following kosher law – law that is not nearly as black and white as the lawsuit claims.

That said, the allegations are disturbing, despite that fact that AER's Shlomoh Ben-David denied all of them when I spoke with him Thurday afternoon and again on Friday.

Here is the entire class action lawsuit against ConAgra doing business as Hebrew National as a PDF file:

Download Hebrew National Class Action Lawsuit 6-2012

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Pays to look for the Glatt designation!

This past shabbos I had a long conversation in shul (st paul mn) with one of the shochtim for hebrew national.

he described in detail all the kashrus enhancements that r ralbag implemented and that are in place there for the past few years. This includes the requirement of always having two shochtim on the kill floor and in one of the plants always three shochtim in the kill box, this is besides a bodek sakinim who constantly checks and perfects the knives. the requirement from the triangle k that every shochet have 3 knives availabale to rotate with. the requirement of always having a bodek chutz and bodek pnim, and in some plants 2 bodkei pnim and two bodkei chutz that work together (the plants that kill more cattle).
he described how the rabbi's sons come in every few weeks on suprise visits and orally test the bodkim on the various halachos that are needed for non glatt (taking off the sirchos adhesions etc), and check the knives.

he said that over the years there were numerous shochtim and mashgichim who were dismissed by the rabbi either because they were lacking the proper fear of heaven or the proper skills. He knows for a fact one of these as a very frustrated individual who has told him personally that he only wants one thing now is bring down h.n. aer and tri k hence the class action law suit. (its pretty obvious because since when would a kashrus complaint not be brought to a bais din any bais din or at least attempt a beis din rather then and go to a judge with a class action to decide its all about revenge and $$$). he did say the rabbi might has various kulos he relies on like kli shlishi or so but he does this in order to be able to supply kosher meat and make it availabale for any jew in the usa.

he described the melicha and nikkur in detail a very updated conveyer belt with a tumbler that salts every piece of meat from all sides and pooles of water that it sits in and rinses that it goes thru etc etc.
he described how the nikur was taught to them by experts who came in from israel and described the varios cuts what has to be done. he described the various simanim the meat containers get marked off with by mashgichim and get rejected if any of the seals are missing or seem tampered with.

he described a facility in michigan with constant supervision with mashgichim on rotation 24/6 that accept the meat or reject it and personally start up the oven to make it bushul yisrael (for the franks i guess).

he described numerous more thimngs at length but my fingers are getting tired , and i am not as good as shmarya typing one handed.

Pays to look for the Glatt designation!

Posted by: Aaron | June 16, 2012 at 11:20 PM

Why?

Many of the same complaints were made against Rubashkin, and he sold glatt.

in addition, i didnt speak to him about these above specific complaints will hopefully speak to him by shachris tom. but it sounds absurd, he did tell me that there is a waterhose they use on every animal to wash down the neck from dirt, but the absurd part is that dirt doesnt make an animal not kosher, the knick does, either it had one or didnt, if the shochet felt one he should mark the animal as not kosher and if the shochet didnt feel one its rightfully marked as kosher...pretty absurd claim...

and #93 is totally wild why would the fact that what it seems like the shochtim have their own run and only slaughterr and check glatt for themselves and not consume non glatt in any way affect the fact that the other meat is regular kiosher as marked and not glatt, just because the shochet himself eats glatt that renders the regualr shechita no good? absurd? in all glatt shechitas too the same shochet that shechts glatt shechts the animals that are rendered non glatt, and he might not eat the non glatt personally but its still kosher.

Shmarya

Hope your feeling better.

Great reporting.

I believe this case is about lawyers greed and revenge. I read the entire document and dug into the attorneys backgrounds.
Too bad it may hurt the kosher meat industry.
Also it shows a lack of understanding of halachic process in how the liars want to prosecute this case. Con Agra has deep pockets they probably would never have gone after Rubashkin or Empire.

A good time to schecht some attorneys.

Dear rabbis of AER

Shut the F@&$ Up.

Do not give interviews to bloggers, newspapers. Do not speak to anyone who is not your lawyer. Your life is about to go to he'll with this law suit.

If you have never been involved in civili litigation you will soon find out that your lives will be turned upside down.

Anything you say can and will be used against you, will be distorted s. Tretched to a ridiculous degree to proove your lieing.

תםטום את פיכם

Rebbitzman Shmarya let's go into business.

Rebb you handle Green Bay.
Shmarya you handle st Paul.
I'll go to Nebraska.

The business is a pre schetah automated cow wash. Waxing will be extra.

Whaddya think?

I believe this case is about lawyers greed and revenge. I read the entire document and dug into the attorneys backgrounds.

Lawyers are parasites and one of the reasons why we have so many financial problems in this country. Healthcare costs are prohibitive partly because the lawyers are forcing doctors to perform needless expensive test only to prevent lawsuits.

In the case of opening of windows for civil“How can an institution conceivably defend itself against a claim that is 40, 50 or 60 years old?” Mr. Brannigan said. “Statutes of limitation exist because witnesses die and memories fade.”

“This bill would not protect a single child,” he said, while “it would generate an enormous transfer of money in lawsuits to lawyers.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/14/us/sex-abuse-statutes-of-limitation-stir-battle.html?ref=sunday

This paragraph got lost due to a mismatched HTML tag

In the case of opening of windows for civil as opposed to criminal lawsuits, again, lawyers are at the forefront of this effort in order to bring them billions, to quote from the New York Times

and #93 is totally wild why would the fact that what it seems like the shochtim have their own run and only slaughterr and check glatt for themselves and not consume non glatt in any way affect the fact that the other meat is regular kiosher as marked and not glatt, just because the shochet himself eats glatt that renders the regualr shechita no good? absurd? in all glatt shechitas too the same shochet that shechts glatt shechts the animals that are rendered non glatt, and he might not eat the non glatt personally but its still kosher.

Posted by: Shochet Ubodek | June 16, 2012 at 11:45 PM

Yes, you are correct.

The lie here is that eating only glatt means that non-glatt meat is by definition not eaten by "the most stringent" Orthodox Jews.

That would be news to dozens of major poskim in America and Central and Western Europe over the past several centuries.

n the case of opening of windows for civil as opposed to criminal lawsuits, again, lawyers are at the forefront of this effort in order to bring them billions, to quote from the New York Times

Posted by: Sila | June 17, 2012 at 12:19 AM

You're off topic and if you do this again, I'll delete your posts.

Past that, you're also wrong.

These bills extending the SOL and creating a window work because they hold churches, schools, and synagogues responsible for enabling child sexual abuse.

And do try to process. A lawsuit that lacks EVIDENCE will rarely be successful. Most won't ever make to trial.

In states with these expanded SOLs, following what passes for your logic, there should be dozens of frivolous lawsuits – but there are not.

Now stay on topic.

The law suit is based on the terminology that con Agra uses in describing the level of kashrut "the most stringent".

Nobody can produce enouh kosher meat in America if you use the most stringent in terms of the lungs, which is Beit Yossef. Beit yossef permits no sercha on the lungs at all if I remember correctly.

Also different groups have different definitions of what glatt is.

Also different approaches to removing forbidden fats and nerves.

Making it more complicated is that according to what i was taught that some points of view are based on kabbalistic understandings even though the basis for the halacic position is not taught to schochtim

Going to trial on this case is absurd.
Line up and get your gelt.

A note to charedeim and a very large part of the orthodox world if you wanna get some money and sign up as member of the class you would be stealing cause you don't eat stam kosher. So no charedeim can join.

"The law suit is based on the terminology that con Agra uses in describing the level of kashrut "the most stringent".

i would say the mere fact that its not labeled as "glatt" automatically says that its not that extra stringemncy, so no one exactly is being fooled or misled over here.
and yes it is the most stringent for orthodox too a term that can be used for stam kosher too based on 500 years of texts starting with the ram"a.

The allegations are not vague, for the most part. They set out specific examples that ConAgra should be able to refute simply by being transparent on the processes they have out in place at each step of slaughtering. As I commented previously, the greatest damage they can suffer here is not from this lawsuit, as even if they are shown to have violated their own marketing claims, what's the damage to the plaintiffs? They are not claiming physical or psychological injury, just that they overpaid for something that was technically not kosher by "the most stringent" standards. But overpaid by how much?
Unless the violations were truly severe (like mixing pork, crab, and dairy in their hotdogs, which is not remotely the case), I can't see a judge or jury awarding huge damages for non-compliance with marketing puffery.
This is one of those cases that, if it settles, will be for a voucher or coupon to those in the plaintiff class to buy discounted HN products plus a modest check to the plaintiffs' counsel.
No, the real risk is to reputation. ConAgra should take the non-infected bull by the horns and use this as a positive PR play. Smartest thing they did was start talking to Shmarya, being open about things.
If Shochet's description is accurate, this could end up being a big positive marketing coup.

I think the plaintiffs' counsel made a serious tactical blunder. Reading the class definition (para 97) and the arguments for class certification, it is clear they tried to cast the broadest possible net to "all persons" who purchased any HN products. This includes not just Jews of any type but also non-Jews. If the class includes those who don't really care about what's kosher (it's just a question of how much they paid), then by their definition they are excluding the possibility of all kinds of psychological harm they could have claimed had this just been on behalf of a limited frum class. They would have had fewer members, for sure, but the threat of damages far more severe both in quantum and supporting evidence.
How do you prove a non-Jew would have not purchased HN hotdogs if they knew the slaughtering practices were not "the most stringent". Would a non-Jew (or even a non-frum Jew) even know what those practices are?
Yet this class action includes non-Jews as potentially injured parties.

"Posted by: Shochet Ubodek | June 16, 2012 at 11:33 PM"

Certaintly seems like this is Aryeh Ralbag or one of his lackeys posting, and NOT someone who just heard about this in shul as "Shochet Ubodek" claims.

abcdef

who cares if its a lackey posting or not, but if this is what takes place systematically then the plaintiffs better think of a better way to make a quick buck

I don't need to go past the 1st one listed - #76.

An animal that met those criteria don't qualify for human consumption - never mind kosher. This plant, and the kosher line in particular has USDA inspectors whenever they are running. No way a badly injured, sick, gored, or dead animal is going through.

I have very little direct contact any more with the folks out at the slaughter house here (but thank you, Jake, for your kind offer of a business opportunity) but have met the USDA folks many many times when they've stopped by the shul in hopes of having certain thing explained to them about the process. While they generally speaking are less than impressed with the attitudes of the Jews working these lines (as in, they aren't particularly friendly) they have nothing at all bad to say about how they perform their work (from the standpoint of meeting USDA standards).

Shmarya - I have put some back channel requests that someone from the group (they do have Internet - or rather did 2 years ago when I was last in one of their homes) to jump in. We'll see.

I am reminded of a recent class action lawsuit against Taco Bell. The plaintiffs claimed only a very small amount of beef was in their "beef mixture" (can't remember all the details right now). Taco Bell went on the offensive, telling the truth but not the whole truth about their beef mixture. Someone apparently leaned pretty heavily against the plaintiff's lawyers, for their "proof" was bogus. The suit was dropped by the plaintiffs.

Without some photographs or the names of the alleged stool pigeons, I can't see this suit going anyplace.

"Posted by: Shochet Ubodek | June 16, 2012 at 11:33 PM"

Certaintly seems like this is Aryeh Ralbag or one of his lackeys posting, and NOT someone who just heard about this in shul as "Shochet Ubodek" claims.

Posted by: abcdef | June 17, 2012 at 07:56 AM


I know Rabbi Ralbag.

If you put a gun to his head, he couldn't figure out how to post to a blog.

The man is a talmid chachom but clueless online.

"I know Rabbi Ralbag.

If you put a gun to his head, he couldn't figure out how to post to a blog.

The man is a talmid chachom but clueless online.

Posted by: FB Fan | June 17, 2012 at 01:40 PM"

Because it takes a rocket scientist to figure out how to type in a text box and press "post." Honestly, the stupidity of some people here!

If you want to see stupid, look in a mirror

i attempted to speak to him today (unscheduled) and waited in front of his house the whole day, people with prior appointments are going in and out and he is in rabbinic court the whole day performing rabbinic duties. so here you have it irrelevant if he can type in a text box or not he clearly has better and more important duties he is busy with.

"he clearly has better and more important duties he is busy with.

Posted by: anon | June 17, 2012 at 05:09 PM "

Yup, lining his pockets with ill gotten gains while perverting justice is quite important work.

Those of us who are serious about Kashruth did not buy Hebrew National and triangle-K in general to start with.

: Lazar -

they answer to a higher authority and thats good enough for me.

The real story behind the people that are doing this mishpat arkaot / chilul hashem (class action lawyer suit)

I did schita in greenbay last year and was there when the rabi came on suprise visit and didn't like 2 shochtim royi basil and menachem felman these were 2 shochtim who didn't want to keep rabbis takanah of three shochtim in box besides bodek sakinim, they wanted only 2 shochtim so they can have more hafsakot.

Everyone in the plant at that day knows this is the real story. The next day they protested and didn't come to work they wanted chevra to agree to only 2 shochtim at a time so they made up sipurim that animals are dirty said can only do shechita if they work together 2 in box, everyone knows this story, they are shakranim.

Before this protest of not showing up to work they never mentioned once animals with dirt.

After they were fired for being chatzufim to rabanim these two reshaim went on a war lehapil they are mosrim and reshaim. I don't wish their punishment to come from shamaim on my biggest enemies, hizharu begachaltan.

They are still hanging around the st paul minesotta area, anyone who meets these two reshaim or employes them stay away from these two bad people they have smooth mouth but are mafia gangs no yirat shamaim, royi basil and menachem felman shem reshaim yirkav.

They know the truth too and know this is what took place.

hopefuly they will do teshuva before tragedie strikes their families for this.

you are M.chadad!!
you hate menachem and roi..
here's the deal,.. i know for a fact that every single issue mentioned above is real. and i garauntee that there will be witnesses for everysingle accusation. the fact is it happened. another fact is the employee's complained. another fact is when nothing happened they shut up and held it in.
halachikly (the most lenient opinion is the shach) one must stroke his finger along the blade of his knife TWICE once up once down in between EVERY slaughter. the fact was in greenbay there is 12 seconds in between every cow! you must slaughter, wash, check your knife and sharpen it on a stone (stroke the entire 18inch knife up and down once on each side of the knife) in between every shechita... try keeping that pace for 15 min!! you will be missing nicks.. these nicks need be as small as a single strand of hair, it often takes immense concentration to discern one. yet here you've got 12 seconds to wash, check and sharpen your knife!
there are tons of people that will testify to this. i hope mossiah comes before then!!!

Some interesting factoids about the plaintiffs' counsel, Zimmerman Reed. The two attorneys signing the papers are:

- Hart Robinovitch, a partner specializing in consumer protection and mortgage fraud claims. His profile says his cases include, "a series of class actions brought against banks, mortgage companies and other financial institutions for over-billing, improper fees or other contractual violations." This, in my view, is why the suit is simplistically constructed as as a consumer product overpricing scheme rather than a fraud on orthodox Jews. When you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail. I still don't understand their damages theory. Presumably it will be the difference in price between a HN package of franks and one that is equivalent quality but is not kosher by the "most stringent" standards. Good luck proving that...

- Ann Regan. Even more interesting is that co-counsel is a labor/employment law specialist whose firm profile boasts considerable experience representing workers suing... Meat-packing companies in Minnesota.. "Her recent cases include the resolution of thousands of meat processing workers' claims against companies such as Gold'n Plump, Brakebush Brothers and Green Bay Dressed Beef...."

So my guess is that the disgruntled workers approaches the firm via Regan but instead of launching a simple labor litigation, she brought in her partner to attack the company's business model. The ultimate goal here is probably just to maximize leverage because they get more out of the "kosher suit" than just for the bare labor claims. (Maybe migrant Israeli workers are not entitled to the same legal protections as other workers?)

Shmarya, it would be good to know from Ben-David if you talk to him again whether there is also employment litigation pending, or whistleblower claims, etc, and whether the same firm (and lawyer, Regan) is acting as counsel.

Quite true...The allegations are disturbing

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