So, where are those kosher chick­ens?

New pro­ducer hoped to be up and run­ning by this month, but wait con­tin­ues.

The Canadian Jewish News (Toronto) - - Front Page - PAUL LUNGEN plun­gen@thecjn.ca

So, af­ter all this time, where are the chick­ens?

When Pre­mier Kosher won the bid to pro­duce On­tario-raised kosher chick­ens in March 2016, com­pany pres­i­dent Paul Tzel­los an­nounced that he ex­pected to have pro­duc­tion up and run­ning in Jan­uary 2017. As the month winds down, kosher con­sumers might well ask, “Nu?”

Tzel­los de­clined to be in­ter­viewed for this story, say­ing in an email, “I am not able to pro­vide a plant start up date for you at this time. We are work­ing hard to get the plant into pro­duc­tion.”

He sug­gested an up­date might be forth­com­ing in March.

That was the same time frame sug­gested by Richard Rabkin, manag­ing di­rec­tor of the Kashruth Coun­cil of Canada, which is known by its COR hechsher.

COR “has been work­ing dili­gently with Pre­mier Kosher on the as­pects of their kosher pro­gram as they work to get their plant up and run­ning,” Rabkin said in an email. “Pre­mier Kosher has been work­ing very hard, but it’s a big un­der­tak­ing. They have ad­vised us that they are aim­ing to com­mence op­er­a­tion in the com­ing months.”

For many years, On­tario had been served by lo­cally pro­duced kosher chicken from Chai Poul­try, but in 2013, the com­pany sold its sup­ply quota to a ha­lal pro­ducer. That left kosher con­sumers with­out a lo­cal source of kosher poul­try.

Marvid, a Montreal-based com­pany, stepped into the breach. Con­sumers, how­ever, were of­ten un­happy with Marvid’s prod­uct. Many voiced their con­cerns on the Face­book page op­er­ated by culi­nary maven Norene Gil­letz, who has au­thored sev­eral cook­books on kosher cui­sine and is a con­trib­u­tor to The CJN.

“Peo­ple found the chick­ens fatty and they needed clean­ing,” she said in an in­ter­view. “Peo­ple don’t want to spend money on fatty chick­ens.”

Qual­ity has im­proved in re­cent months, as it ap­pears Marvid has taken con­sumers’ com­plaints to heart, she added.

Andy Strub is look­ing for­ward to the ar­rival of a sec­ond source of kosher chick­ens. “I hate mo­nop­o­lies,” said Strub, who works in the food in­dus­try and is part of the fam­ily that once op­er­ated the epony­mously named pickle com­pany.

“From that per­spec­tive, I hate the fact that one com­pany can con­trol the mar­ket­place.” That af­fects qual­ity and sup­ply, he said.

Strub sug­gested that as a new en­trant to the mar­ket, Pre­mier can be ex­pected to hit the ground run­ning, com­pet­ing on price, qual­ity and avail­abil­ity in a bid to cap­ture a healthy chunk of the mar­ket.

Moshe Benyair is chef and culi­nary di­rec­tor of Savours Gourmet – Hart­man’s Sig­na­ture. He’s fa­mil­iar with Marvid chicken and he em­ploys butch­ers to cut up, skin, clean and de-bone the whole birds he re­ceives from the sup­plier.

They’re “much cleaner and nicer” when Savour’s butch­ers get through with them, he said.

Benyair said he was happy when he heard con­sumers and re­tail­ers like him­self would have an­other kosher chicken al­ter­na­tive. Marvid for a time “found chal­lenges in sup­ply,” but “they’ve im­proved,” he said.

Still, a more se­cure sup­ply would be wel­come, so that he’ll know when he places an or­der it will ar­rive quickly, he added.

When Pre­mier chick­ens fi­nally ar­rive, Benyair ex­pects to place an or­der and sub­ject them to the same Savours treat­ment as the Marvid prod­ucts. Ul­ti­mately, they will be repack­aged for the cus­tomers and it will be up to them to de­ter­mine whether they pre­fer one brand or the other, he said.

As for Marvid, spokesper­son Mau­rice Gabay said the com­pany en­tered the On­tario mar­ket on short no­tice when Chai stopped pro­duc­ing and did its best to meet de­mand.

To­day, he said, “prices and spe­cials are as good as be­fore, even bet­ter some­times. We al­ways try to im­prove our qual­ity and ser­vice, and will never stop, with or with­out com­pe­ti­tion.”

He said Toronto con­sumers are “happy with Marvid prod­ucts… be­cause the vol­ume doesn’t stop in­creas­ing.

“As we were able to face the sit­u­a­tion three years ago with the help of God, we’ll face any sit­u­a­tion with more ex­pe­ri­ence,” he said.

Moshe Benyair

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