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Saturday, August 30, 2014

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In search of kosher chickens

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Marvid Poultry is the sole supplier of kosher chickens in Toronto [Jeff Rosen photo]

TORONTO — Finding a kosher chicken in Toronto hasn’t been easy since a Montreal processor became the sole supplier in Canada.

The closure of Chai Kosher Poultry’s Toronto operation in May 2013 created a shortage, and it’s affected all of Ontario and other parts of Canada, said Richard Rabkin, managing director of the Kashruth Council of Canada, which is known by the name of its hechsher, COR.

He said Montreal’s Marvid Poultry has “worked diligently to meet increased demand, but from all feedback, it’s not sufficient.”

Rabkin said his family has been eating chicken patties from Israel because of the kosher chicken shortage.

“In my family, my kids are not eating regular chicken. They’re eating what’s known in our house as ‘dinosaur’ chicken, processed chicken patties in the shape of dinosaurs.

“Other people are eating more fish. Some people prefer to eat kosher chicken, but given no choice, will buy non-kosher chicken, which is really unfortunate.”

Rabkin said COR has been working to address the problem with the Chicken Farmers of Ontario (CFO), which represents more than 1,000 independent Ontario chicken farmers, as well as other stakeholders in the chicken-manufacturing community, including the Association of Ontario Chicken Producers, which represents the processors.

“Both of those groups have been quite supportive and have been working to find a solution for the shortage of kosher chicken in Canada. We’re very thankful for their efforts.”

Some “entities” have already stepped forward and expressed an interest in processing the chicken, Rabkin said. “It’s an expensive endeavour, and there are a lot of logistical challenges an entrepreneur will have to navigate.”

The CFO recently put a request for proposal on its website (www.ontariochicken.ca), seeking business plans from interested parties that articulate their interest, intent, experience and ability to process Ontario chicken, in Ontario, for kosher markets. The deadline is May 30.

The request for proposal gives parties who haven’t already expressed interest in processing kosher chicken the chance to do so, said CFO spokesperson Michael Edmonds.

“As a responsible supply management board, we will make the chicken available to an entity that comes up with a successful business plan that meets the needs of Ontario’s kosher community.”

He said the board will review the submissions, but a structure to evaluate the business plans has yet to be determined.

“We may work with other consultants,” he added.

Edmonds said the CFO is anxious to work with partners who can serve the kosher market and is looking forward to reviewing the proposals as they come in.

Rabkin said COR is very concerned about the shortage of kosher chicken.

“We share the concern of kosher consumers at the lack of availability of kosher chicken and we’re working with all our stakeholders and are hopeful that a solution is forthcoming.”

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