Just in time for Friday's decision by the US Bankruptcy Court to…
…allow Agriprocessors to resume limited production, another wave of kosher meat "shortage" stories hit the press.
I've written before about the "shortage" and explained that any shortage has much more to do with anti-competitive business practices than with a true shortage.
A couple of weeks ago, and Agriprocessors employee in the know left comments here stressing Agriprocessors had millions of dollars of meat in its freezers.
Many people doubted that. After all, if the meat was there, why not sell it? Why not fill orders?
While those are still valid questions, we now know with 100% certainty the meat is there. We also know how much: More than $11 million dollars worth.
How do we know?
In two ways.
1. The court-appointed trustee's proposed working budget, which lists $11,310,988 of frozen meat as an asset. The trustee notes that: "(8) Projected cash receipts from Frozen inventory (new A/R) are projected at $300,000 during the near-term…"
2. The judge's order, which accepts the trustee's proposed budget, in part states: "…[T]he Trustee shall use his best efforts…to liquidate the Debtor’s frozen meat and poultry inventory."
So the meat was there.
It was there when Agriprocessors and its hired flacks screamed shortage immediately after the May 12 immigration raid.
It was there when Agriprocessors and its hired flacks screamed shortage as the charges against the Rubashkins began to unfold.
And, it was there when Agriprocessors' flacks and its legal team, in particular, Nathan Lewin, used the "shortage" to argue (at least to journalists and haredi Jewish community leaders) that the government was violating the First Amendment by creating and exacerbating this "shortage."
It was this bogus argument that led directly to the "War on Kosher" campaign – and it was that campaign that led to increasing numbers of haredim viewing the government as "Nazi storm troopers" and the like. It also heavily contributed to labeling critics of Agriprocessors in the same way.
So? What is the truth?
Why hold on to $11 million dollars of frozen meat, when that meat could have kept store shelves stocked and prices steady, and could have bought Agriprocessors time to hire a new workforce, fix its other problems and 'relaunch' the company anew?
We may never know for sure.
But what we do know is there is no kosher meat shortage.
And there is something else we know.
As workers suffered for months without money and food while local churches and individual citizens struggled to feed and house them, $11 million dollars of meat sat chilling in Agriprocessors' freezers.
At least until bankruptcy was declared in early November, some of that meat – a tiny portion of it, really – could have fed those poor workers.
Instead, workers went hungry – including workers it recruited from far away places using false promises, and who found themselves trapped in Postville, hungry and broke, paychecks emptied by company deductions.
Agriprocessors could have fed every one of those workers a hot meal every day and barely nicked the supply of frozen meat. It could have sold workers meat at cost to help them get through their first few months in Postville.
Instead, Agriprocessors left the care of these indigent workers to St. Bridget's Church, the community food pantry, and Jeff Abbas from Postville Radio and his volunteer crew.
There is no kosher meat shortage, my friends.
And Agriprocessors has no heart.