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This week in Postville

We’re a little overdue for an Agriprocessors update, and as always, there’s some choice nuggets to report.

  • Bruce Braley, the Iowa Democrat whose district includes part of Postville, made a pointed statement on the Agriprocessors situation, saying the company shouldn’t get any more second chances. Braley was responding to an inquiry concerning Iowa’s decision to reduce by three-fourths the $182,000 fine levied against the company for safety violations. The Iowa Workforce Development’s labor division said leniency was warranted because the company plans to improve. “You have to keep pressuring [Agriprocessors] to engage in the right behavior,” Braley said.
  • Folks in Postville have told me that more subpoenas have been issued at the Agriprocessors plant, though details are sketchy about who is being summoned. This news follows a report late last month that a close associate of the Rubashkins had been summoned to appear before a grand jury. All this is sure to fuel even more speculation that the government is planning to bring company officials (or former officials, as the case may be) up on criminal charges. The U.S. Attorney’s Office refused to comment.
  • The Associated Press ran a story this week on continuing fears of price hikes for kosher meat. I’m proud to say we were ahead on this, but the AP did add an interesting wrinkle: Even if Agri can get itself back up to speed, it will almost certainly have to pay documented workers more than the undocumented, or falsely documented, ones it had previously employed, which would likely undermine the company’s major competitive advantage: cost.
  • Eight kosher summer camps in the midwest have found a non-Agri supplier of kosher meat after the company filled an order for meat with a shipment that was two years past its date.
  • Leah Koenig has an interesting interview with a former Agri kosher supervisor on her food blog, The Jew & the Carrot. His take: “It seems very typical considering that the way they managed the company is kind of unprofessional …I don’t think [the Rubashkins are] monsters or deliberately trying to hurt anyone. It’s their lack of professionalism.”
  • In a sign of how hopelessly far apart the ultra-Orthodox are from the rest of the Jewish community on this, a religious blog published this frontal assault on Conservative and Reform Jews, accusing their leaders of cynically exploiting the Agri situation under the guise of genuinely caring about kashrut.
  • And finally, the folks who claim responsibility for getting the Agri ball rolling sent us this heartwarming story this week: A PETA investigator sent thousands of dollars worth of vegetarian food to the Postville church that has been helping families affected by the raid. PETA, by the way, might not have a taste for meat, but they certainly do for irony.