Chicken production at Agriprocessors, the embattled kosher slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa, is now up to 20,000 daily — about one-third its previous output — and beef production is expected to soon resume.
“I have two experienced meat industry veterans operating the plant and all operational decisions are made under the trustee’s auspices,” said Joseph Sarachek, the company’s court-appointed trustee.
Agriprocessors filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in November. It ceased operations at about the same time, owing between $50 million and $100 million. Its assets at the time were estimated at between $100 million and $500 million.
Sarachek said chicken production resumed early last month and that “we are also placing eggs for the development of chickens in the future, and we are processing pastrami and corned beef.”
Sarachek said plans call for the plant to begin slaughtering cattle again by Passover, which begins April 8, “and for that to happen we have to start well before then.”
Since chicken production resumed, Sarachek said kosher chicken prices have dropped “to a more reasonable level.”
Agriprocessors had had 40 percent of the kosher poultry market and 60 percent of the kosher meat market before it ran into legal problems. Federal authorities raided the plant in May and arrested nearly 400 workers for alleged immigration law violations.
Rabbi Sholom Rubashkin, 49, the company’s CEO, was also arrested and charged with conspiracy to harbor undocumented aliens for profit and with bank fraud. He is being held without bail awaiting trial.
Sarachek said Agriprocessors plans to process “as much glatt [meat] as possible” when it resumes production. He noted that glatt meat prices have risen 40 to 50 percent since Agriprocessors ceased production.
Cattle slaughtering will resume, Sarachek said, once the company is able to obtain another bank loan to be able to buy cattle.
“You have to pay cash,” he said, adding that the company is working with First Bank of St. Louis to obtain a new bank loan. It already has a $5 million loan from the bank.
Agriprocessors, which once employed 1,000 workers, now has a workforce of 300 primarily former employees and Sarachek said all comply with U.S. immigration laws.
Although there are members of the Rubashkin family at the Iowa plant, Sarachek said they are not in control of the operations. The Rubashkin family owns the plant and is hoping to find a buyer. It rejected a $50 million offer late last year and Sarachek said the Rubashkins are now “negotiating with multiple parties” who are also interested in buying it.