Sunday, August 3, 2008

You Are What You Eat...(urp!)

Sojourners blog tackles the topic of kosher food as prepared at Agriprocessors in Postville, IA in the article Exploitation Isn't Kosher by Allison Johnson. She reminds me not to point fingers at Orthodox Jews. Yes, I am what I eat, too.

Agriprocessors, the single largest kosher food production plant in the nation, was responsible (before the raid) for 60% of the nation's kosher beef and 40% of kosher poultry. Stories pour out of Postville about the inhumane treatment of the immigrant workers. Underage workers were arrested in the raids, some as young as 13. Many workers were forced to put in overtime without extra pay or breaks. Vulnerable people were exploited by religious business owners who systematically violated immigration and workplace laws, acting--as one union official put it--like "the poster child company on how to exploit a broken immigration system."

Two Jewish organizations helped sponsor the July 27 rally in Postville, IA to illustrate their concern that kosher food represent the Biblical value of righteousness, wraping the food in an ethical envelope. Allison's application of this principle extends to every human person:

If anything, the Postville raid has opened up conversations about how people of faith look at the products they consume and the value we place on the treatment of those who prepare it. We should not allow this issue to focus on just the kosher meat industry. Rather, we should be compelled to look at where all our food comes from and explore ways to spend our dollars that support businesses that treat their employees with dignity and value justice in the workplace.

Organic or commercial?
Local or transported?
Processed or natural?
Free range or factory farmed?
Picked by whom? At what wage? In what kind of conditions?

Food is basic to life and inseparable from social justice.
illustration caption: T-shirt logo seen in Postville, IA. "Aaron's Best" is the brand name of the kosher meat.

8 comments:

Missy said...

Eating is a moral act.

How often do we think that while we are eating?

You've reminded me of the Eaters' Bill of Rights. Perhaps I'll have something more to say about this.

Thanks for continuing to post information on this. Peace-

Border Explorer said...

Ooh, good link, Missy!

Blogger Utah Savage's bio statement begins: "I believe everything is political, even a trip to the grocery store is political."

Darn tootin'.

FranIAm said...

What a great post! I thought of you during my vacation, but did not get to read too many blogs.

Just a quick trip through tonight - and a quicker hello!

Pax- and thanks always for your wisdom from the heart.

earlbo said...

It seemed to me in the reports, that I looked at about this raid, that the officials at the plant seem VERY proactive in providing fake documentation for the immigrants.

On the immigration front, now it seems that hospitals are deporting immigrants. It's like a rendition right from the hospital bed back to the country of origin. ICE is not involved.

hospials deporting sick immigrants

Border Explorer said...

Welcome back, Fran. I caught your update last night and vicariously enjoyed your vacation. Thanks! Will write soon; I know you're swamped upon re-entry. Glad you stopped by.

Wecome, Earlbo! (I'm a fan of yours already.) Thanks mucho for the NYTimes link. After reading p. 1, I already know I'm gonna love reading that story all the way through. It's a pleasant relief to read some real news in the MSN--a nice change of pace.

QuakerDave said...

"Food is basic to life and inseparable from social justice."

An issue and an idea that nobody seems to want to discuss. Thanks for bringing it up here.

Border Explorer said...

Welcome, Quaker Dave. (Thanks for the blogroll, too!) I'm already a big fan of your blog & an RSS subscriber.
Looking forward to getting to know you better.

DivaJood said...

//Organic or commercial?
Local or transported?
Processed or natural?
Free range or factory farmed?
Picked by whom? At what wage? In what kind of conditions?//

Everything Agriprocessers does goes against the Kosher laws. Kosher butchers are supposed to kill as humanely as possible; kosher plants are supposed to be under supervision. Clearly Agriprocessers violates everything that the Kosher laws teach - because I believe strongly that the meaning behind the Kosher laws is very much about humanity, dignity and decency.

The real issue is about the way Agribusiness conglomerates have bastardized food - this goes from grain all the way to meat & poultry.

Organic or commercial? Easy. Commercial is all about turning the highest profit, quickly, without regard to quality. Organic costs us more, but it is always going to be richer taste, healthier for us, and for the product itself.

Local or transported? Easy. Local supports smaller, quality farmers. It helps the environment. It provides fresher, tastier, and healthier foods.

Processed or natural? Oh, please, sir, may I have some more chemicals in the shape of a greasy hamburger please? I hope it's got a ton of e coli and manure in it, too; that adds to the flavor.

Free range, or caged? Well, here's a short story: years ago, my ex-husband worked for a meat processing company. He had to take a plane-load of breeder pigs to a farm in Haiti - en route, they had to stop, deplane the pigs so they could have massages. It seems the pigs get highly stressed out when confined. He told me about how the company injected a salt water solution into beef sold to places like Arby's to make it plumper. I vote for free range.

Picked by whom? At what wage? In what kind of conditions?

As long as Americans demand fast food, it will be picked and processed by illegal immigrants, below minimum wage, in dangerous conditions. Ironically, we encourage the influx of illegal immigrants to do our menial tasks and then get our knickers in a twist because they're here. C'mon, Neocons. You cannot have it both ways.

Or maybe I'm wrong, and they can.