Hebrew National

hot dog

kosher foods

Hebrew National is a brand of kosher hot dogs and sausages made by ConAgra Foods, Inc. The Hebrew National Kosher Sausage Factory, Inc. was founded on East Broadway, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in 1905. The company was founded by Theodore Krainin, who emigrated from Russia in the 1880s. In a 1921 article, Alfred W. McCann writing in ‘The Globe and Commercial Advertiser’ citied Hebrew National as having ‘higher standards than the law requires.’

McCann wrote the article during a crusade for commercial food decency standards, in which ‘The Globe’ was prominent. He wrote ‘More power to Krainin and the decency he represents! Such evidence of the kind of citizenship which America should covet is not to be passed by lightly.’ Hebrew National ‘served the Jewish neighborhoods of immigrants from Eastern Europe and Germany and soon developed a favorable reputation among the other Jewish residents of New York City.’

In 1934, the company was bought by Jewish Romanian immigrant butcher Isadore Pines. A year later, Isadore’s son, Leonard Pines, took over the business. In 1965, Hebrew National came up with the slogan that they’ve used ever since: ‘We answer to a higher authority’ — a reference to Jewish dietary laws and a claim to higher quality that was able to appeal to both Jewish and non-Jewish markets. In 1968, the Pines family sold Hebrew National to Riviana Foods, which was taken over by Colgate-Palmolive in 1976.

In 1980, Isidore ‘Skip’ Pines, grandson of Isidore, bought the company from Colgate-Palmolive for a fraction of the price it was originally sold for. The health food movement of the 1980s encouraged the company to stick to a recipe that used no artificial colors or flavors, and to minimize other potential modernizations of the recipe. This strategy ultimately proved successful, and with a growing revenue, Hebrew National hoped to transform itself into a large conglomerate through acquiring other brands, in order to compete with the food giants that dominated the industry.

Hebrew National developed a non-kosher brand called ‘National Deli.’ This strategy was less successful, and National Foods was acquired by ConAgra Foods in 1993. The National Deli brand was sold off in 2001 to a former Hebrew National employee, and still operates today out of Miami. Hebrew National primarily makes meat products including hot dogs, but they also make salami, bologna, knackwurst, Polish sausage, and cold cuts. In addition to meat, they make a small number of sausage-related kosher condiments: sauerkraut, pickles, and mustard.

Ironically, Hebrew National beef products cannot be eaten by many observant Jews, despite the fact that Hebrew National is probably one of the most well-known kosher brands among non-Jews. For many years, Hebrew National relied on a body within the company to certify its products kosher. Many Orthodox Jews did not feel that Hebrew National’s kosher standards were up to those set in place by groups such as the Orthodox Union, Kof-K, and the like, and as such, would not consume Hebrew National beef-based products. In the early 2000s, Hebrew National switched to an external certification group, the Triangle K, under the auspices of Rabbi Aryeh Ralbag, which was widely seen as somewhat of an upgrade in its standards of kashrut. In 2004, the Conservative Movement found the upgrade sufficient to be acceptable by Conservative standards.

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