Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
News

What Is Agriprocessors, Explained

What is Agriprocessors?

Agriprocessors was the name of the kosher slaughterhouse and meatpacking factory in Postville, Iowa, owned by Sholom Rubashkin. Purchased in 1897 by Aaron Rubashkin, who passed down the company to his sons, Heshy and Sholom Rubashkin, the company eventually became the largest kosher meat-packing plant in the United States.

Agriprocessors’ history of legal woes.

Agriprocessors was no stranger to bad press, facing accusations of mistreatment of cattle, pollution, undocumented immigrants, anti-competitive practices and breaking labor laws. An expose done by the Forward dragged some of these issues into the open and prompted a national outcry. Rabbis pledged to monitor plant conditions and ensure ethical treatment for workers with a “Tzedek Hechsher” certification.

In May 2008, U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement staged a raid of the plant, the largest in U.S. history at the time, arresting almost 400 employees. Most of the arrested undocumented immigrants served a five-month sentence before being deported.

Agriprocessors files for bankruptcy.

On November 5, 2008, Agriprocessors filed for bankruptcy, citing workforce loss after the raid, declined public interest in Agriprocessors’ products and increased production costs.

Agriprocessors’ eventual shutdown led to a shorter of kosher meat in America and raised prices by other kosher meat manufacturers. Empire Kosher, the largest kosher meat producer in America, doubled its production rate in response. The CEO of Agriprocessors was sent to prison for bank fraud.

Agriprocessors is reborn as Agri Star.

A July 2009 auction run by SHF Industries put Agriprocessors on the market. The company was purchased by Jewish Orthodox billionaire Hershey Friedman, who spent millions on upgrades to rebuild the plant. Friedman called running Agri Star “a chesed [charity]. It’s not losing money, but it’s not a business I’m in to make lots of money. Rubashkin did well in it.”

Agriprocessors may be gone, but the memory of the biggest kosher meatpacking factory in America, besieged with constant legal battles, lives on.

Engage

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.