The bankruptcy of the kosher meatpacking plant Agriprocessors, the largest American kosher meat operation, has forced many Jews to go vegetarian amid kosher-food shortages and soaring prices.
The Postville, Iowa plant had supplied more than half of the kosher meat for millions of Jews as well as non-Jews who prefer buying meat processed according to Jewish law. Federal investigators raided the plant in May and charged officials with violating immigration laws and hiring 389 illegal workers.
Agriprocessors filed for bankruptcy this week after the resulting labor shortage left it unable to meet customer demand and forced a shutdown of its beef department, according to the Des Moines, Iowa Register. Charges that could result in multi-million dollar fines have been placed against the company's owners.
Nationwide shortages have forced many people to eat vegetarian meals on the Sabbath, when meat and chicken are a long-standing tradition. Many stores throughout the U.S. reported their meat cases were empty.
One rabbi told the KosherToday website, "This past Sabbath was the first in a long time that my wife made a pareve [non-meat] cholent," a stew usually consisting of meat or chicken, grains and potatoes. The rabbi added that he was hoping to haul home several boxes of meat when he goes on a trip to Brooklyn.
The large Empire Kosher Poultry company is trying to make up for the meat shortages and meet increasing demand for chicken but does not have a beef plant.
Agriprocessors, operating under bankruptcy laws, still is producing at a limited rate. This too may cease, however, because hundreds of the plant's workers are unable to pay their electricity bills and may have to leave their homes soon. The local energy company has agreed to a week's delay before cutting off power to the workers' homes but employees will not be able to stay in their houses without power as the winter approaches.