By Deb Silverthorn
From the Galveston coast to Dallas, by way of New York, Rabbi Yaakov Rosenblatt is living the tenet of l’dor v’dor, generation to generation. Continuing in the footsteps, or meat cleavers, of his great-grandfather Rabbi Abraham David Rosenblatt and his grandfather Max, the Dallas-based rabbi has taken the family business, A.D. Rosenblatt Meats, a kosher meat supplier to a whole new level.
More than 750 pounds of glatt kosher meat was delivered last week to the Preston/Forest Tom Thumb store with orders for the Coit/Campbell store in negotiations. In Houston, the meat is available at Randalls.
The 400 undocumented workers arrested at the Agriprocessors plant in the May 12 raid and their families are living in limbo, out of work and facing deportation. But now the fallout is beginning to extend beyond those most directly impacted.
The production slowdown at the Postville plant has finally hit the nation’s kosher markets and, by extension, kosher consumers. Retailers from coast to coast are reporting trouble having their orders filled. Many are hiking prices, although they are generally vague about whether the increases are coming from Agriprocessors or competing suppliers.
Bottom line is, there is less kosher meat, and it’s costing more.
Some retailers aren’t even bothering to order from Agriprocessors, which has scrambled in recent weeks to bolster its depleted work force.
For A.D. Rosenblatt, the delay and availability of meats from Agriprocessors has opened a door at area markets. While Tom Thumb says the store is waiting on poultry deliveries, they have not been affected in beef receipts per the recent raid, yet the store is happy to be working with an additional distributor. ”People are happy and they are buying it with no complaints,” said Andy Flores, Meat Market manager at the Preston/Forest store. ”In this case, no news from the customer is good news.”
Not to leave the tradition of teaching led by his father Zev behind, Rabbi Rosenblatt and his wife Suri first came to Dallas in 2000 to learn and to teach with the Dallas Area Torah Association. The couple started DATA’s Plano branch.
In 2004 Rabbi Rosenblatt left DATA, interested in starting a business. ”This was my family’s business; Rosenblatts had been koshering and selling meat since the 1870s. My grandfather was a shochet and ritual director in Galveston early in the last century and it was my turn.” One of 11 children, Rabbi Rosenblatt is joined in business by his brother, Abraham David, who represents the company in sales.
Rabbi Rosenblatt started small; at a plant in Coke, Texas. There, they slaughtered four cattle – all unkosher. His second attempt also failed to provide any kosher meat. ”I knew that only about 30 to 35 percent of all meat is kosher but it was still pretty discouraging,” he said. ”I then first moved to a plant near Hillsborough, and then to Omaha, Neb. where we were able to net 30 kosher animals every other week.”
In March of this year, A.D. Rosenblatt started basing the majority of its business, about 200 cattle a week, from a plant in Harper, Kan. Available cuts include boneless chuck, chuck tender, chuck flanken, minute roast, whole, export and bone-in navel ribs, marrow and neck bones, skirt steaks and tongue.
Glatt, which literally means smooth, means the animal’s lungs contain no questionable adhesions. The term is commonly used to describe a higher level of Kosher supervision. “There is a strong demand for this level of kashrut and we’re proud of what we are able to provide,” said Rabbi Rosenblatt. The company also produces Beit Yosef meat, “absolutely pristine,” said Rabbi Rosenblatt.
The company is supervised by the OU, Orthodox Union, CRC, the Chicago Rabbinical Council, and Star K. In addition to the A.D. Rosenblatt label, the meat is sold under the Abeless & Heymann and California Delight labels.
At the Harper plant, A.D. Rosenblatt installed a new slaughter pen, designed by Dr. Temple Grandin, of the University of Colorado. “Dr. Grandin is a brilliant woman, an expert on humane treatment of animals,” said Rabbi Rosenblatt. ”The expense of kosher meat comes from the production line; the manpower, the inspections, the many steps in the process.”
In addition to the cattle, the company is also distributing lamb, about 300 a week, from a plant in Iowa. ”The success rate for a kosher lamb is greater than that of the cattle because their lungs are generally healthier,” Rabbi Rosenblatt said. ”We have rack of lamb, chuck, breast and the shank cuts being shipped,” ”We’ve gone from 15 animals a week to between 200 and 300 a week.”
“The meat is so fresh and you can tell that it’s just days from processing to our table,” said frequent, and now loyal customer, Travis Katz who most enjoys slicing down the minute roast for fajitas with his wife Ceci and their family. ”They are very tender and lean cuts, absolutely delicious, and I’m telling you, the quality is wonderful.”
Rabbi Rosenblatt, A.D. Rosenblatt’s COO, is joined in business by his partner of three years, Bob Feinberg, CFO, with whom he speaks by telephone, “maybe 15 times a day. We’re a great team.” “I had a fire in me to continue as an entrepreneur and Rabbi Rosenblatt and I connected at the right time,” said Feinberg who had previously sold his 20-year-old vending machine company. ”My wife took on the directorship of the Levine Academy preschool and one of us retired wasn’t a good thing. Rabbi asked for help and, while it was an uphill battle, and we have a long way to go, we are now seeing the fruits of our labor, we’re known, and we’re respected.”
“I feel very connected to this business and hope my ancestors would be proud,” said Rabbi Rosenblatt, setting an example for the next generation; Yehuda, Batya, Rivka, and Yisroel Yitzchak. ”I didn’t know my great-grandfather, but I definitely feel his inspiration.”
“We’ve exceeded our wildest dreams and we’re now in a great situation,” Feinberg said. ”But we’re here to stay.”
JTA’s Sue Fishkoff contributed to this report.
By Deb Silverthorn