In 1972, Aaron Rubashkin opened a modest kosher butcher store in Brooklyn, New York. The store not only supplied the Brooklyn community with kosher meats, it also supplied a Jewish restaurant and soup kitchen operated by Aaronâ€™s wife, Mrs. Rifka Rubashkin. In addition to their entrepreneurial pursuits, Aaron and Rifka raised nine children in the Chassidic Jewish tradition.
In the mid-1980s, kosher meat was in short supply, because of innovations in the storage and shipping of meat. Cattle were now slaughtered close to the supply â€“ in the Midwest â€“ in high volume. This new method of production eliminated smaller packers, who were the predominate producers of kosher meats. The scant supply of kosher meat enacted a hardship on Orthodox Jews generally and Aaron Rubashkinâ€™s butcher store specifically.
To remedy this religious and entrepreneurial hardship, Aaron envisioned operating his own slaughterhouse â€“ a slaughterhouse focused on Kosher products. Aaron learned of an aged, run-down, and vacant meatpacking site in Postville, Iowa. The plant was the structural remains of the Hy-Grade plant. After a brief visit to the premises in 1987, Aaron purchased the plant for a couple hundred thousand dollars and named the venture â€œAgriprocessorsâ€. Over the years, the operation grew considerably, and by 2008 it employed approximately 1000 workers in numerous departments.
At its inception, Agriprocessors operated with approximately 70 employees, five rabbis to perform the kosher slaughter, and a small managerial staff, which included, among others, his son Tzvi â€œHeshyâ€ Rubashkin. The small managerial staff experienced some turnover until Aaron hired Donald Hunt. Hunt was famously hired on a handshake and reported directly to Aaron. Aaron remained Agriprocessorsâ€™ sole-shareholder and the ultimate authority on any decision affecting the company.
Aaronâ€™s initial plan was for the Postville plant to simply produce enough meat to supply his butcher store needs and the needs of a couple other butcher stores in Brooklyn. To that end, Agriprocessors slaughtered approximately 100 cattle a day. The revenue from that plan was insufficient to sustain production costs and Agriprocessors was forced to increase the slaughter quantity.
For over a decade, Agriprocessorsâ€™ financial statements were prepared and kept in order by Yomtov Bensasson, known as Toby, and his brother-in-law, Mitchel Meltzer, who had been a certified public accountant. Meltzer was responsible for the general ledger, maintaining the balance sheets, reconciling accounts receivable, and preparing documentation for lenders. He reported to Toby, who was the controller of the company and managed the accounting division.