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Chicago…Who’s on First? What’s on Second? The old Abbott and Costello routine could very well apply to many meat shelves on the eve of Rosh Hashanah that begins September 8th. While many supermarkets scrambled to showcase kosher meat and poultry in the past two years, this year’s lineup includes a resurging AgriStar with its Aaron’s Best brand. At Jewel-Osco here, an 8 piece cut up Aaron’s Best chicken went for $1.69 a lb. while an Alle’s kosher fresh shoulder roast went for $5.99. A 12oz. pack of Aaron’s sliced beef was advertised at $4.99. The reappearance of Aaron’s in both beef and poultry appears to have cut into some traditional competitors. While Empire was available in most stores, it had to compete with the Aaron’s poultry in many stores. In New Jersey’s Acme market, it was all Empire in the promotional ads with $1.99 a lb. for turkey and $2.99 for turkey breast. In addition to the supermarkets, Aaron’s was also being sold in many independent kosher stores. Hershey Friedman, the Canadian Jewish magnate who bought Agri is touting his Canadian roots in producing American quality products as part of an aggressive marketing effort. In markets like New York, the key players also include KJ Poultry, a rapidly rising kosher poultry producer in Monroe, NY. Industry sources say that there is absolutely no shortage of kosher meat and poultry in any major kosher market in the US this Rosh Hashanah.
By Menachem Lubinsky
New York…”The departure of Hain from the kosher poultry scene is the beginning of a shakeout in kosher poultry,” a leading distributor of kosher beef and poultry predicted. In interviews with several purveyors and distributors, Kosher Today learned that the landscape for kosher poultry continued to evolve and that at least one or two other established producers were “shaky.” Hain announced that its Kosher Valley brand will be sold to Empire Kosher Poultry, which is said to have improved its sales in recent months, largely due to increased production by major distributors who are slaughtering at the Mifflintown PA plant. Empire, the long-time leader in kosher poultry, had faced stiff competition from increased production by existing producers and the emergence of several purveyors that targeted the strictly Orthodox market. AgriStar, the successor to the failed Agriprocessor, continued to compete in the poultry market as did relative newcomers like KJ Poultry in Monroe NY. Industry sources noted that while sales of kosher poultry will continue to rise in the Orthodox community, it is declining in other markets. “I think when everything is said and done there will continue to be a strong demand for kosher poultry, but at present there may very well be a glut,” a leading expert said.
Industry officials were also curious about why the Kosher Valley brand did not succeed in the current health-conscious environment. The brand was the first all-natural kosher poultry product to be antibiotic-free (ABF), vegetarian fed and humanely raised. It featured modern and well received packaging and stood out as a higher-end product. Yet, say the officials the demand for the natural chickens was not as expected and consumers demonstrated once again that price is a major factor in their purchasing decision. Empire says that it will continue to produce the chicken and some experts predict that all-natural branded chicken and turkey products will continue to gain share in the kosher market.