Monday, April 15, 2013

Glatt Kosher Meat Is Not All It Is Cut Out To Be

Glatt Kosher Meat Is Not All It Is Cut Out To Be  -By Marc Shapiro    Fri. Aug 18, 2006

Due in no small part to the recent controversy at Agri Processors slaughterhouse.There has been a lot of talk of late about how Glatt kosher meat is produced. Yet for all the sensational headlines about whether the standards of kashrut are being met, little attention has been paid to how those standards are actually determined. 

In nearly every Orthodox community today, Glatt kosher has come to stand for unquestionably kosher, with the result being that food carrying the regular kosher label is shunned. This is more than simply an issue of certification. Regular kosher might be okay if you’re in, say, Montana, and it’s the only meat available. Even then, though, you might want to think twice before bringing home such food. 

If you’re thinking of having a barbecue for Orthodox friends and throwing some regular kosher hot dogs on the grill, don’t be surprised if your guests suddenly develop a distaste for meat and profess that they’ve recently become vegetarians. For hundreds of years, halachic authorities disagreed as to what exactly could be considered kosher. The “Shulhan Arukh” insisted on no adhesions — Glatt means smooth, and refers to the fact that the lungs of animals slaughtered according to Glatt kashrut do not have any adhesions.

Rabbi Moses Isserles disagreed, and ruled that an animal could be declared kosher even with certain adhesions. In the Ashkenazic lands, regular kosher was the standard, with Glatt being reserved for the exceptionally pious, who were also willing to pay more. This is also how matters were in America. Since then, the Orthodox have adopted a new standard in kashrut, one that defines only Glatt kosher as acceptable. Regular kosher has been relegated to Conservative Jews and others who don’t take kashrut as seriously as the Orthodox.

On numerous occasions I have been informed by non-Orthodox relatives or colleagues that I can eat the food that is being served since, they told me, it is Glatt kosher, with the emphasis on Glatt. In previous years, it wasn’t simply the masses who ate regular kosher. The great rabbis did as well. So how did we reach this point in the United States where a practice that was basic to Orthodox society simply disappeared and came to be no longer regarded as acceptable? Much of the blame  or praise, depending on your outlook, falls on the Orthodox Union, which is considered the gold standard of kashrut supervision in the USA.

As part of its effort to achieve universal acceptance, even in the most right-wing circles, some years ago the O.U. stopped providing supervision to non-Glatt meat. Once the O.U. no longer recognized the validity of non-Glatt, it soon became verboten for the average Orthodox Jew. The great irony here is that the leading Modern Orthodox organization is itself responsible for creating a situation where virtually all Orthodox Jews in this country, even the most liberal among them, would not dream of buying anything but Glatt kosher. It is also impossible for a restaurant or hotel to attract an Orthodox clientele without being exclusively Glatt.

The O.U.’s move to Glatt is not the only example of the organization adopting policies that are not in line with the Modern Orthodox tradition of its founders. It was the O.U.’s move to Glatt, however, that had a truly momentous impact and changed the religious landscape of American Orthodoxy. Other hashgachot soon followed the O.U.’s path, leaving supervision over regular kosher in the hands of hashgachot that in many people’s minds were regarded as less reliable. It took just a few years following the O.U.’s decision before regular kosher was no longer regarded as acceptable in American Orthodoxy.

Yet this is not all there is to the story, and here things get even more interesting. The very meaning of Glatt kosher in the United States is not what most people think, namely, meat that has no adhesions. While this is indeed the original meaning of Glatt and the meaning most people identify it with, the word as used today means something more expansive, depending on which kashrut organization you ask. For some, it simply means that they hold themselves to a very high halachic standard in all areas of meat production. 

For others, it means that they permit only a couple of small, easily removed adhesions, a type of Glatt that was actually quite common among Hasidim in prewar Europe. One thing that is certain is that Glatt in the United States does not mean that an animal’s lung is completely smooth. Sephardim, who are supposed to eat only real Glatt, are under normal circumstances not permitted to eat the typical “American Glatt,” and they therefore have their own special “Beit Yosef Glatt.”

While the kashrut organizations have not exactly hidden this information, and will tell you the truth if you ask, they have not been exactly forthcoming about it either. There is, for example, no explanation on the O.U. Web site as to what it means when it stamps a product Glatt. The closest you get is an article titled the “The Kosher Primer,” which explains that real Glatt is free of all adhesions on its lungs. The primer does acknowledge that, “Recently, the term ‘Glatt kosher’ is increasingly used more broadly as a generic phrase, implying that the product is kosher without question.” 

Yet there is no clarification that the O.U.’s Glatt falls into the second category — which also explains how the organization believes it appropriate to certify “Glatt chickens.” A great deal has been written about how the Orthodox have in recent years adopted new religious standards. If they knew the facts, they might not be so attached to the Glatt-only culture of contemporary Orthodoxy — which is something worth chewing over the next time you munch on a Hebrew National regular kosher salami. Marc Shapiro is a professor of Judaic Studies at the University of Scranton.


Anonymous said...

so yudel - hebrew national is now ok by you? ay, i thought you didnt trust ralbag...

OU Crony Watch said...

OU had no choice but to terminate Rabbi Broyde after the scandal that was uncovered 3 days ago.

Anonymous said...

The OU drops Broyde in a second for bashmutzing other left wing rabbis but won't do anything about Seth Mandel who was bringing Conservative rabbis & ochlei treifos to shecht or about Belsky no matter how many dirty things he is involved in.

Anonymous said...

We always knew Glatt is meaningless in America. Glatt kosher Chickens huh!

Anonymous said...

Nassau County District Court - 1st District
Index Number: CV-028640-12/NA
Case Name: Glenn Foods Inc vs. Kenover Marketing Corp

Glenn is the major manufacturer of soy crisp chips in all different flavors. They must have done a run with a heimishe hashgocho.

Anonymous said...

The OU teams up with Lubinsky to make it sound like the aftermath of the Doheny scandal is like Alice in Wonderland:

By Staff Reporter

NEW YORK — Kashrus officials do not believe that the system of supervising kosher establishments is flawed. “The protocols at the OU are very clear on the role of the mashgiach at a kosher establishment,” said Rabbi Moshe Elefant, COO of the Orthodox Union’s Kashrus Division. Rabbi Elefant said that the system in place also includes oversight by rabbinic administrators.

A similar sentiment was echoed by Rabbi Sholem Fishbane, Rabbinic Administrator of the Chicago Rabbinical Council and Executive Director of the Association of Kashrus Organizations. The officials were reacting to the latest kashrus scandal, discovered right before the Passover holiday at the Doheny Glatt Kosher Meat in Los Angeles where video by a private investigator shows owner Mike Engelman unloading “questionable” meats during the supervising rabbi’s break to attend morning prayers.

The Doheny story was reminiscent of the scandal that rocked the Monsey community in 2006 when Moshe Finkel of the Shevach butcher shop was found to have included non-kosher poultry in his store just two weeks before Rosh Hashanah. The Monsey event as well as other incidents in the Five Towns and Flatbush resulted in the tightening of standards by kashrus agencies. Referring to the alleged failings of the mashgiach and oversight by the supervising agency, one kashrus official compared the Los Angeles scandal to “a plane crash blamed on human error.”

While at least one rabbi pointed a finger at a “consumer base that simply does not care,” others said that it would be impossible for ordinary customers to delve into the intricacies of back room operations at places like Doheny or Shevach. They said that most kosher customers expect the strictest standards to be observed as advertised. In the interim, Doheny was purchased by a well-known Orthodox philanthropist who obviously will reopen with scrupulous kashrus standards.

Anonymous said...

"Case Name: Glenn Foods Inc vs. Kenover Marketing Corp"

Either Glenn or Kenover must be under the Queens Vaad.
We'll have to wait for "Kranke" to decide which it is.

Yeshivishe shechita? said...

Why is Twin City Poultry's bank going after Agudah of Ave L's Rav Lieff, formerly of Minnesota?

Kings County Civil Court
Index Number: CV-018574-13/KI

Filing Date: 03/21/2013


At Twin City Poultry in New Hope the doors were locked and the lights were off. There was a notice on the door from Xcel Energy, however, warning the company they owe more than $5,000 in energy payments.

The State Department of Revenue filed a lien against the business because it owes the state more that $60,000.

"They were the biggest kosher food distributor in the upper midwest," said Leventhal. "They had customers in Chicago, they had customers in Texas , Colorado, Missouri..."

"One customer came and he was looking around and he said, 'Where's all the food?!'" said Cooper's Supervalu owner Sara Cooper.

Cooper is only now restocking the empty shelves at her store after months without shipments but it comes at a cost.

"Right now we have three different trucking companies bringing us things from different parts of the country," she said.

At Cecil's, David Leventhal thinks his loyal customers will understand the situation. As a loyal customer of Twin City Poultry, Leventhal would like some answers.

"No one knows what's going on and they're not saying anything," said Leventhal.

Twin City Poultry spoke to a trade newspaper in October about it's financial trouble. The owners said the company had a plan in place to rebuild and restructure. We've been unable to find them for comment.

We also spoke with a local Jewish school that keeps kosher. The Rabbi there said without the local supplier, he estimates food costs will go up about 20%.

Anonymous said...

Glenn Foods Inc vs. Kenover Marketing Corp - Either Glenn or Kenover must be under the Queens Vaad

No, but the Glenny soy chips are probably distributed by West Side Kosher. Either that oder fresst men Glennies with one hand on the steering wheel while driving up there.

Rubashkin Truck Driver said...

There is a lot to this story although I am not sure exactly what triggered the bank to sue Rav Lieff.

There are those like Conservative rabbis and Failed Shmarya who sort of blame Rav Lieff for causing TCP to collapse. Their reasoning goes that Rav Lieff who was in the same shiur as Sholom Rubashkin in a mesivta somewhere conspired with him to block sale of non-glatt in Minnesota which was good for Rubashkin but allegedly bad for TCP and secular consumers. Failed Shmarya claims he beat Rav Lieff in a din Torah but was forced to sell his own failing deli after he alleges Rav Lieff refused to listen to the psak beis din. The two brothers who own TCP davened in Rav Lieff's shul so it makes sense they would listen to him. Rav Lieff also announced that Failed Shmarya's kashrus was not to be trusted. Failed Shmarya admits that he hates Rubashkin with a passion because of this din Torah. Failed Shmarya was then put in cherem by Rabbi Zeilengold who is one of certifiers of Rubashkin's non-glatt that is sold apparently only outside of Minnesota.