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Camps return expired meat

A group of Midwestern Jewish camps returned a shipment of kosher meat from the embattled slaughterhouse Agriprocessors.

Camp Ramah Wisconsin received a shipment that a source said was two years past its expiration date. Camp Interlaken, a JCC camp in Wisconsin, received meat dated “late last year,” according to operations director Jonah Levenburg.

The two summer camps are part of a consortium that purchases foodstuffs together to get preferred prices. The consortium returned the meat to Agriprocessors and told its agent, H&H Purchasing Services of New York, to find alternate sources of kosher meat.

“We made the decision to collectively return the meat so as to ensure the safety of our children and the food product that we prepare and serve,” Levenburg told JTA, adding that the decision had “absolutely nothing” to do with the recent controversy over Agriprocessors’ labor practices.

The Agriprocessors plant in Postville, Iowa, last month was the target of the largest federal immigration raid in U.S. history. Agriprocessors is the largest kosher slaughterhouse in the United States, selling meat and poultry under various brands, including Aaron’s Best, Rubashkin’s and Supreme Kosher.

Since the raid, which placed more than a third of the company’s work force in federal custody, the company has struggled to replenish its ranks, sparking fears of a nationwide kosher meat shortage.

Some industry observers have estimated Agriprocessors’ output as low as 20 percent of its normal capacity. But Menachem Lubinsky, a company spokesman, said the plant is producing close to capacity on deli foods, nearly 70 percent on poultry and about one-third of its former beef output.

Even if a shortage is averted, the company’s image has been severely tarnished, particularly in the liberal Jewish world, by the raid and by allegations of worker abuse that have emerged in its aftermath.

At least three Ramah camps will hold education sessions this summer on the issue of ethical kashrut, according to Jeffrey Goodman, the national business manager for Ramah camps.

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