Hebrew National Getting Grilled

hot-dogs-grill-xl-14552762



Recent headlines casting doubt on the kosher status of Hebrew National at first came as somewhat of a relief. To those like myself who have avoided Hebrew National for years – first because they never allowed outside rabbinic supervision, but did all the supervision themselves, and then starting in the early 2000′s because they chose Triangle K — the lawsuit was a long time coming.

However ironically, instead of the lawsuit bringing about any kind of justice, the big loser in the end might be the kosher consumer. When the kosher supervision industry – and there are many reasons to be skeptical – receives a blow to its credibility, it affects everything that is under kosher supervision, not just meat. This may mean fewer companies choosing supervision down the road and fewer choices.

Triangle-K is a huge company. Sadly, unscrupulous companies and individuals have taken advantage of the consumer need for high level kosher supervision. As long as there is money to be made, there will be charlatans at play. Is Triangle-K one of them? It will be interesting to see how this plays out, to say the least.

Hebrew National. Even the name sounds authoritative. They have been named by Consumer Reports as the nation’s best tasting hot dog. They have won numerous other awards and accolades. They are feted as one of great kosher additions to modern American cuisine.

However the “higher authority” they answer to might be called profits.

The lawsuit does not claim that Con Agra is “passing off pork as kosher products,” said Hart L. Robinovitch, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, told the American Jewish World. “. … And based on our investigation, there were certain things that weren’t conducted properly, in a systematic way—from the way cows were slaughtered, to the way the lungs were inspected or not inspected for imperfections—as is required to meet the standard that the meat is 100 percent kosher.”

If I were the lead attorney on this case I would not argue about something being “100% kosher.” Among kosher consumers there is no unanimity about what is 100% kosher at all. In fact, one of the arguments that defendants ConAgra can make is that they represented their “level” of kosher supervision honestly by employing the Triangle-K.

The plaintiffs may need to show that Triangle-K were complicit somehow in fraudulently representing the status of their meat as complying with basic standards of orthodox supervision.

“This is an invisible fraud,” the lead attorney in the case told told Reuters. “How does a consumer who thinks he is buying kosher meat really know he is buying kosher meat? It’s a very, very difficult thing for a consumer to detect, unless someone investigates.”

It’s not hard to detect — it’s impossible for a consumer to detect, which is why we rely on outside kosher supervision for meat. This last phrase really applies to the entire kosher industry. How DO we know that what is passed on to the consumer is really kosher? We don’t. On the part of the consumer its 100% faith unless the product itself doesn’t need supervision in the first place.

Stay tuned, this one will get interesting. In the meantime, pass the mustard, these soy dogs really need some added flavor.


11 Comments

  1. Gershon

    6/20/2012 at 1:34 pm

    Whoa there, ace. I know everyone else in the world seems to have forgotten this, but glatt kosher is a chumra and in no way represents a “basic standard of orthodox [sic] supervision”.

    • Rabbi Yonah

      6/20/2012 at 1:36 pm

      Its not a question of glatt or not, its a question of KOSHER or NOT.

      • Gershon

        6/20/2012 at 2:02 pm

        When you bring up lungs, it’s hard not to assume that’s where you’re going.

        • Rabbi Yonah

          6/21/2012 at 4:41 pm

          ALL kosher products need to come from cows with healthy lungs. Glatt means that there are no lesions. Some lesions are permitted – two to be exact- for it to be kosher – more its treif.

  2. themiddle

    6/20/2012 at 2:59 pm

    Not that it’s directly connected to this story, but I would ask rabbinical authorities in today’s Jewish universe why they don’t establish a standard for kashrut that emphasizes how the animal is treated during its lifetime and how humanely it is killed and harvested. It’s hard for me to stomach that what we saw with Rubashkin’s plant is acceptable as a kosher standard.

    • themicah

      6/20/2012 at 7:41 pm

      Such an initiative exists. But it’s a tough sell. There are hundreds of thousands of consumers who won’t buy anything without a hechsher from their favorite Orthodox kosher nostra family, but won’t pay a dime more for anything that isn’t strictly required for that hechsher.

      My wife and I are actually on the verge of switching from kosher meat to (non-kosher) organic meat for our until-now kosher kitchen, as we believe that the way an animal lives is more important than the rituals surrounding its death. Now that USDA has revamped their organic certification requirements for meat, I’m pretty well convinced that USDA organic means more from an ethical perspective than kosher. We used to buy Wise kosher organic, but can’t find that any more.

      • Rabbi Yonah

        6/21/2012 at 4:43 pm

        I appreciate and share your concern too. THe only problem with addressing the issue by eating non kosher meat is that you are not putting pressure on the kosher meat industry – which is needed.

        In addition, there are spiritual maladies according to kabbalah associated with eating non kosher meat.

        Also … The way that the animal is killed with a bolt to the back of the head in non kosher meat production doesnt always kill the animal before it is dismembered.

  3. Pingback: China just wants a few good Jews — News of the Week (Jewish Style) — 6/20 — Gather the Jews

  4. david k.

    6/22/2012 at 2:01 am

    what a joke please dont disgrace your self proclaimed title rabbi because there is no way you received real semicha you say “more then 2 adhesions on the lung makes it treif” please source your ignoramus.
    kosher can be tens of adhesions as stated outright in the ram”a, glatt means no adhesions as stated by bais yosef, todays glatt (in order to supply the demand they made up lets take off some adhessions less then three so it doesnt really count, this thinking has one source found in the mateh asher who you most probably never heard of being a fake reverend, anyways even the mateh asher describes this less then 3 as still considered glatt, but to make up as you state not kosher, is your new testament! pure ignorance.
    i think we got a real suit on glatt kosher being that its not really glatt withstanding mateh asher, sure seems like an invisible fraud and deception on the public consumer to me! anyone agree any class action any bills to pay

    • jkaplb

      6/22/2012 at 2:47 pm

      Any chance you could attempt to make your point without being insulting and coming across as an ass? It kind of turns everything else you wrote into “blah blah blah.”

  5. larry

    6/22/2012 at 9:12 am

    Interesting story. I wonder how it will develop. I wonder who the real plaintiffs are. The plaintiffs’ lead atty is Zimmerman Reed of Arizona. Aren’t they the same people who sued General Mills in Minnesota and said their yoghurt isn’t yoghurt? They placed ads in newspapers looking for plaintiffs in that case, just as they did in the hot dog case.

    Here is the case filing
    dockets.justia...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

More in Jewlicious (497 of 5525 articles)
TJC Logo


Guess which rabbinic family occupies four of the top 13 slots. And who's the only woman on the list? ...