Saturday, February 11, 2012
Where’s the beef? That’s what some cattle farmers in Israel are asking. More importantly, where’s the beef from? That’s what Israeli consumers should apparently be asking.
Earlier this week, Haaretz reported that a truck packed with 70 calves was hijacked at gunpoint on Tuesday February 7, 2012. The cattle, which had been imported to Israel from Australia, were being taken from Eilat to the Golan Heights to be fattened up. Instead, the driver was ordered to drive the cargo to Ramallah. Most of the cattle were apparently slaughtered in Ramallah and Nablus. Palestinian police recovered 17 of them and returned them to their Israeli owners. The remaining purloined sirloins were apparently not recovered. The driver was released by the thieves and the truck was located near Nablus.
Haaretz also reported that more than 2,400 sheep and cattle were stolen from Israeli ranches in 2011. Most of these animals were slaughtered in the Palestinian territories and the meat was then smuggled back into Israel and sold to butchers across the country at very low prices, according to the article. This incident and the many others over the past few years raise serious questions about the regulation and quality of beef in Israel. One would have thought that with such pervasive Kosher regulation of much of the meat industry in Israel, it would be very difficult to trade in uninspected tref beef.
It is worth noting that there are many non-Kosher purveyors of meat products across Israel. The supermarket chain Tiv Ta’am is the largest. With 32 locations across Israel, it is Israel’s largest producer and supplier of non-Kosher meat. I’m not suggesting that there is a link between these incidents and that particular chain although one might think it would be easier to sell uninspected beef to non-Kosher resellers. There are many other non-Kosher butcher shops across the country.
Even on the Kosher side of things, there is the oft-repeated joke that if you pay a mashgiach (a Kosher food inspector) enough, you can Kosher a pig. Although I’m not suggesting that this is what is occurring, there must be a compromised link somewhere along the chain if beef that was slaughtered in Ramallah and Nablus is regularly being sold in Israel, particularly if is labelled as Kosher.