08 December 2008

Why We Need "Stam Kosher"

Last Thursday, I was pressed for time and bought my Shabbat needs at the local grocery store which stocks Meal Mart and Empire products in tray packs. I purchased a package of "fresh" stew meat (at $10.59/lb) and on the bottom, there was a sticker stating product origin: "Product of USA, Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, Uruguay." 

Rubashkin's shutdown has majorly impacted everyone. It's a reminder of the negative side of "big business kashrut". The advantages may include a "universal" definition of kashrut but this can also be a problem. A big "turn-off" to keeping kosher has been the complaints of the costs. On most kosher-certified processed foods, it is "the same" since many processed foods are things people buy anyway. The "deal-breakers" seem to be meat and dairy products. I accept the halakhah against "g'vinat akum" but why can't companies make DECENT cheese from chalav stam AND get reliable certification? Glatt kosher, though, is not a halakhah. It's a CHUMRAH! It is an extra stringency people have had put upon them, since the average person may not know/care about the difference. In the shtetl, if there were a handful of cows that had to be made to work to feed everyone, it happened.

It's yet another example of putting up too many fences. I have several friends who are in dire financial straits. Keeping kosher to the standard of our community is yet another "frum" expense which keeps them in the hole. None of them buy chalav yisrael, but if they want meat (even if only for Shabbat), they are forced to pay these outrageous sums of money for inferior product. (The local butchers are also high-cost considering that a great deal of their meat also comes in pre-cut from the SAME local distributor.) We are all keeping to standards for these "people" who may not otherwise eat in our homes. I have an idea if the rabbis "allowed" stam kosher meat again, it would drive the costs back down. As it stands down, some of the "big business" meat packagers are tossing "stam kosher" meat and only selling glatt. If they packaged that and sold it as "stam kosher" (under a reliable hashgachah, of course), it would make glatt accessible to the people who truly demand it.

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