London poultry shortage threatens as Passover nears

(JTA) — London is experiencing a kosher poultry shortage as Passover approaches, with slaughtered kosher chickens declared unkosher in recent weeks.

The shortages are due to kashrut supervisors “finding up to 80 percent treifoth” — Hebrew for non-kosher meat — “despite the fact that the poultry was purchased from farms with good quality chickens. We are endeavoring B’ezras Hashem to find a speedy solution,” said a March 7 statement by the Kashrut Committee of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, which is responsible for Orthodox Jewish life in London.

The statement said the birds were found to have “torn sinews.”

An unnamed rabbinical judge quoted in the Israel-based news site Behadrey Haredim said that if infection rates reach 90 percent, supervisors may need to declare the entire produce non-kosher in keeping with past rulings by authorities on kashrut issues. In such a case, chicken would have to be imported to the United Kingdom, causing a considerable price increase.

Behadrey Haredim reported that the described problem matched the symptoms caused by a virus that appeared in U.S. kosher chicken plants since the summer of 2012 that causes the tendons to stiffen and snap. The problem occurred in only 25 percent of birds in the U.S.

Thousands of Orthodox Londoners tried but could not purchase kosher chicken, the site reported.

The OU statement said, “We apologize to the public for the shortage of chickens in the recent/current weeks.”

Empire Kosher, the largest kosher poultry producer in the United States, shut down production of kosher chickens on Feb. 28, leading to fears of a shortage for Passover.

An unnamed source told the Haaretz newspaper that the birds were not processed because too many of them had snapped leg tendons, rendering them unkosher. Company spokesperson Elie Rosenfeld told Haaretz that the plant did not slaughter the tens of thousands of chickens that arrived on Feb. 28 because about half of them were not at the appropriate weight.

Poultry is a staple for Passover, which starts on the evening of March 25.

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