February 22, 2010

Change in Hashgochos can be Costly in More Ways Than One

Postville, IA…The owners of Agri Star, the successors of Agriprocessing, may have learned a valuable lesson last week when one of its main hechsherim pulled its certification. The departure of Rabbi Menachem M. Weissmnadl caused an immediate uproar, prompting the owners to threaten legal action and recourse in a rabbinical court. Sources say that friction between the team of Rabbi Weissmandl and the ownership of Mr. Heshi Friedman had been going on for weeks. In his brief announcement, Rabbi Weissmandl noted that he was removing his kosher certification from all the various brands of AgriStar. Sources say that the loss of the hechsher to Agri could further complicate the company’s recovery efforts. One source familiar with similar changes in kosher certifications said: “The cost of changing the labels alone is enough to cause someone to think twice, let alone of the fallout from a dropped hechsher.” In addition to Rabbi Weissmandl’s hechsher, Agri Star products are also certified by the Orthodox Union (OU). Although Rabbi Weissmandl was careful not to cast aspersions on the kashrus, many of his followers and others are questioning the motives behind his departure. A source close to the controversy said: “Let us just say that the cultures were not compatible.” Agri Star continues to be a major producer of kosher poultry and to date has not yet resumed the slaughter of cattle since its predecessor Agriprocessing declared bankruptcy. A source close to the Friedmans told KosherToday that the resumption of the schechita of cattle was imminent. Many questions loomed in the wake of the developments at Agri Star, including the fate of some of the shochtim who are part of the operation of Agri Star. A spokesman for the Orthodox Union said that the OU would continue to certify Agri just as it has for many years. They emphasized that the integrity of the kashrus was not compromised by the change.