Keeping it Kosher
By David Manly
Oct. 16, 2013 – With the closing of Ontario’s Chai Poultry earlier this year, only one Canadian kosher chicken processor was left in all of Canada. But, with increasing demand for kosher chicken every year, any processor would find it extremely difficult to keep up.
According to the National Post (http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/07/05/kosher-chicken-shortage-steep-price-hikes-following-closure-of-one-of-canadas-two-suppliers/), the owner of Chai looked for five years to find a suitable Jewish company to buy his plant and quota, but when none appeared, he sold the 25-year-old to Sargent Farms, a Halal company.
Richard Rabkin, the director of marketing and business development for the Kashruth Council of Canada (known as COR), a non-profit kosher certification agency, said that the closure left the Montreal-based Marvid to meet the demand. “Initially, Marvid made its best efforts to meet the increased demand, and they worked very hard to ramp up their production,” said Rabkin. “But at the end of the day, they are simply not able to provide the amount of kosher chickens that kosher consumers are demanding.”
Because Chai supplied approximately 2.5 million kosher chickens per year to Ontario and the surrounding areas, and Marvid cannot currently meet the demand, prices are steadily climbing and customers are complaining that shelves are bare. COR has received complaints from other groups as well. “Retailers themselves have complained to me that they are not getting the product they ordered, the right cuts on the right schedule,” adds Rabkin. “And we are receiving the same complaints from kosher restaurants, caterers, hospitals, retirement homes – all saying that they are not the right either quantity, cut, specification, etc.”
He has also received complaints that the shortage is affecting the ability to find specific cuts of chicken, such as thighs, which is causing people to look elsewhere for kosher chicken products. “There definitely is a need right now for more kosher chicken in the greater Ontario community.”
As it stands
Rabkin says that consumers should be aware that people are working on a resolution to the problem, especially the Chicken Farmers of Ontario (CFO) and the Association of Chicken Processors (AOCP).
In mid-September 2013, the CFO approached the Chicken Farmers of Canada with a request to grow more chickens to help meet the demand, as well as classify kosher chicken as “specialty” chicken. However, both requests were denied.
“Our hope right now is that right now, as we work together with the AOCP and CFO, that we will be able to present a compelling case to the CFC in the hopes that we’ll come out with a more favourable decision.”
While the problem has yet to be solved, the AOCP have provided a temporary solution. They have provided the company Perl’s, a kosher wholesale manufacturer in Toronto, with a supply of chicken over four quota periods. But it is only a short-term solution at best, said Rabkin.
“I think the ideal solution would be for the CFC to grant kosher as a specialty exemption in the quota system. That way, the barrier to entry for kosher processors would be lifted, and that way, potential kosher poultry processors would be able to step forward and commence operation.”