Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

New seal for kosher food that is 'ethical'

    A kosher butcher’s shop in Florida. Concerns about the way kosher food was produced surfaced when America’s largest Orthodox slaughterhouse was raided by immigration officials last year
    A kosher butcher’s shop in Florida. Concerns about the way kosher food was produced surfaced when America’s largest Orthodox slaughterhouse was raided by immigration officials last year

    When US immigration officers raided Agriprocessors, America’s largest kosher slaughterhouse and meatpacking plant, last year, the Jewish community was shocked and ashamed. Dozens of illegal immigrants were arrested, many alleging sexual harassment, unpaid wages and forced overtime.

    But the scandal may have had one unintended positive result — a new Jewish ethical certification for kosher food, championed by the Conservative Jewish community. The Magen Tzedek, or “Shield of Justice”, could come into force as soon as January, after detailed guidelines for the certification were released this month.

    Minnesota rabbi Morris Allen, the driving force behind Magen Tzedek, said that until now, the Jewish community has concentrated on the ritual, and not the social, aspect of food production.

    “The Torah doesn’t print the laws of kashrut in large type and passages in Deuteronomy on treatment of workers in small type,” he said. “For too long we have allowed a singular perspective to define what constitutes Jewish observance.”

    US immigration officers raided Iowa-based Agriprocessors in May 2008. Four executives will stand trial in the coming months for violating federal immigration laws, bank fraud, wire fraud and mail fraud.

    Marks will be given to companies paying workers 115 per cent of the minimum wage

    Rabbi Allen formed the Hekhsher Tzedek (‘Just Hechsher’) Commission, a joint project of United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the Conservative Rabbinical Assembly, in response to allegations of worker mistreatment at Agriprocessors that predated the raid.

    In recent years, animal rights groups have also accused the company of inhumane slaughter practices.

    Its newly released recommendations for the Magen Tzedek run to 175 pages and include guidance on grading kosher firms according to wages, health and safety, animal welfare, environmental factors, corporate transparency and consumer trust.

    The certification will be awarded on a points basis, with marks given for practices such as paying hourly wages of at least 115 per cent of the federal minimum wage, giving workers adequate sick, pregnancy and bereavement leave, and ensuring that on-site slaughter complies with the American Meat Institute’s slaughter standards.

    The Magen Tzedek — shaped like an undulating star — will only be awarded to products that are already certified kosher.

    Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly, said the Magen Tzedek must go through a consultation and pilot phase.

    There have been some doubts about the cost and difficulty of complying with the guidelines. There are also lingering questions about whether consumers will actually seek out ethically certified kosher products.

    The commission has not named companies that have shown an interest in the certification, though Rabbi Allen says he has had talks with a kosher meatpacking plant in southern Minnesota and a national dairy food producer.

    Elie Rosenfeld, CEO of Joseph Jacobs, a New York advertising firm that specialises in Jewish targeted businesses, said although many consumers want socially conscious products they do not necessarily need to see a certificate. Mr Rosenfeld’s clients include wine company Manischewitz and Empire Kosher Poultry.

    He said there was an interest in socially conscious certification within the industry.

    But he added that if businesses are to be persuaded to apply for the Magen Tzedek, the commission must prove there will be a financial, as well as an ethical, payoff.

    “There are important questions that Hekhsher Tzedek are going to need to address,” said Mr Rosenfeld. “Are enough consumers requesting this additional certification? Is there perceived value? And will it be able to make back the money I am investing?”

World

Rabbi among Mexico quake victims

Daniel Sugarman

Monday, September 25, 2017

Rabbi among Mexico quake victims
World

'Jews should pay for their own security' say Swiss

Daniel Sugarman

Sunday, December 4, 2016

'Jews should pay for their own security' say Swiss
World

Australian abuse report

Henry Benjamin

Australian abuse report
World

Trump to crackdown on Iran and its "terrorist minions", says Pence

JC Reporter

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Trump to crackdown on Iran and its "terrorist minions", says Pence
World

It's Chanucah Song time!

Michael Moran

Thursday, December 1, 2016

It's Chanucah Song time!
World

Trump picks ex-Goldman Sachs banker as Treasury...

JC Reporter

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Trump picks ex-Goldman Sachs banker as Treasury...
World

Netanyahu invited to meet Abbas in Paris

Rosa Doherty

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Netanyahu invited to meet Abbas in Paris
World

Will the Austrian election make Norbert Hofer E...

Sonia Zhuravlyova

Will the Austrian election make Norbert Hofer E...
World

'Neo-Nazi codes' appear in German supermarket a...

Toby Axelrod

Thursday, December 1, 2016

'Neo-Nazi codes' appear in German supermarket a...