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Making the Cut

Ari Greenspan and Ari Z. Zivotofsky

Kosher meat has always been a big business, and today, for Israeli consumers at least, South America is the main source for that beefed-up industry. But we wanted to know: who are the men on the front lines, the shochtim and mashgichim who spend months at a time away from their families in the distant grazing lands of the Pampas, in order to put that Yom Tov staple on our table?

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

We walked into the grassy, gated compound, a garage to our left and a swimming pool in front of us. To the right was a sprawling building with a large kitchen from which emanated the aroma of a serious lunch in preparation. Passing the kitchen was a beis medrash with a few middle-aged men who greeted us warmly and invited us to join them for the coming repast. This was not a retirement village in upstate New York or a fancy seniors kollel in the Galil, but rather the courtyard and home for a hardworking team of shochtim, bodkim, and mashgichim in Uruguay who provide meat for the Jews of Israel. They are here without their families in the distant countries of South America in order to produce and supervise the beef that is served year round, but particularly during the busy Yom Tov season. And we went to visit them, in order to better understand what it takes to produce the meat that we eat. Kosher meat has always been big business. We learned that way back when we were both 19 years old and fascinated by shechitah; we managed to wrangle a trip to a slaughterhouse in Newark, New Jersey, under the supervision of Rabbi Pinchas Teitz ztz”l. Rabbi Teitz took us up to the owner’s grand wood-paneled office, and when we peeked into a well-appointed marble bathroom, we were surprised to see a telephone on the wall next to the toilet. This was in the world before cell phones, andRabbiTeitz explained that even a change of one cent per pound in the price of a cow could translate into huge dollars, so the owner had to be connected all the time.

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