Supplies tight, prices high for kosher beef this Passover

Saturday, April 7th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Shoppers will pay more for that kosher brisket on the table this Passover in the wake of a fire that destroyed the nation's biggest kosher slaughterhouse.

The fire took place in December at ConAgra's beef plant in Garden City. Supplies are also tight because of the recent stoppage of meat imports from Argentina, which has been hit by foot-and-mouth disease, industry experts said.

Around the country, kosher brisket now costs about 15 percent more at the grocery store than it did a few months ago, said Menechem Lubinsky, president of Integrated Marketing Communications, a New York marketing firm that specializes in the kosher market.

With Passover beginning Saturday night, some cities, most notably Atlanta and Los Angeles, have reported spot shortages of kosher brisket because of the fire, Lubinsky said. Supplies in New York and Florida are adequate, but prices are high.

Only a few slaughterhouses in the United States process kosher beef.

For beef to be kosher, the animal must be slaughtered in keeping with Jewish dietary law. Only certain cuts of the animal are used, and the process must meet strict standards for cleanliness and quality.

At Irv's Market, a kosher butcher in Overland Park, owner Steve Silverman said prices for kosher beef are up at least 20 percent in the Kansas City metropolitan area.

A kosher brisket now costs between $3 and $4 per pound retail, or about 50 to 75 cents per pound more than just a few months ago, he said. Non-kosher brisket costs about 99 cents per pound.

``People who keep kosher are used to paying high prices. For some of them it is part of the deal of keeping kosher. Unfortunately it hurts everybody when the prices go up as much as they have recently,'' Silverman said.

He said he has been able to meet demand for kosher beef for Passover, but just barely.

The fire also forced Hebrew National, a leading kosher meat brand, to contract with an independent slaughterhouse for its deli products. Hebrew National has not been able to meet demand for corned beef and pastrami because of the blaze, said president Martin Silver.