Could kosher chicken be in short supply?

It is pretty widely known that the supply of chicken meat, especially that of certain parts, is struggling to keep up with the demand.

Roy Graber Headshot
(Courtesy FSIS)
(Courtesy FSIS)

It is pretty widely known that the supply of chicken meat, especially that of certain parts, is struggling to keep up with the demand.

But I stumbled upon a report recently that made me think of something to which I hadn’t given any previous thought.

Will a shortage of kosher poultry occur?

A report on asks that very question. While it mentions that there is currently no evidence of a shortage of kosher chicken in stores, there is most certainly a shortage of chicken in quick service restaurants. The report also points out that retailers expect kosher chicken suppliers – specifically mentioning Empire Kosher, Birdsboro and Marvid (a Canadian company) -- to continue to provide that supply.

But it is still something to watch.

Supply disruptions could happen

According to the Top Companies Database, only two of the top 32 U.S. poultry companies specialize in kosher chicken production, and those two companies rank pretty low at 28th and 32nd. The largest of the two, Empire Kosher, produced 1.85 million pounds of ready-to-cook chicken on a weekly basis in 2020. The second largest, Agri Star Meat & Poultry, has production levels that are much smaller. It processed about 270,000 pounds of ready-to-cook chicken per week during the previous year.

But one thing to consider is that both of these kosher chicken producers have had recent events that have disrupted production. Empire Kosher halted operations at its facility in Mifflintown, Pennsylvania, for several weeks in April 2020 because of a high number of COVID-19 infections. Then in February of this year, an explosion at the Agri Star plant in Postville, Iowa, injured two people and caused a portion of the building to collapse.

Events like those that are disruptive to the supply can happen, and there’s nothing to say that more of them won’t come along. And if the COVID-19 pandemic taught us anything about meat and poultry production, it is that disruption in production isn’t something that’s easy to make up.

Will non-traditional consumers make purchases?

Another question that might be asked is will kosher chicken start becoming purchased more by people who are not of the Jewish faith. If there is a shortage of chicken in general, but someone of another faith craving chicken sees the kosher product in the store, will the kosher label prevent them from buying it? Probably not. Plus, there is probably a certain level of curiosity and if the non-Jewish consumer tries it and likes it, there will likely be repeat purchases.

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