London - The London Jewish Chronicle, in its on-line edition, recently featured a fascinating story about kosher meat and poultry in the UK. No, this time it is not about shortages or attempts to curb kosher slaughter. “Kosher meat and poultry is more widely available in Britain than ever before, with a greater range of quality and affordability,” the Chronicle points out. It adds: “Yet with the financial climate putting pressure on newly-married couples, families and pensioners alike, fears have been expressed that observance of kashrus laws could hit a crisis-point as consumers struggle to pay the price of keeping kosher. Many people have already stopped buying meat, turning instead to vegetarian diets, non-meat options and in some cases treif.” The article goes on to document the steep prices for the kosher products. But kosher butchers argue that they now provide a greater range of meat at more cost-effective prices than ever before. The most recent substantial rise was five years ago, when a 10 per cent increase on kosher meat was enforced because of currency fluctuations and the strength of the euro to the pound.
The Jewish Chronicle quotes many younger consumers who cannot afford the kosher fare. But relief for consumers may be on the horizon. The number of kosher butcher stores in north-west London and Hertfordshire has increased in the past year, leading to greater competition and an effort to drive down prices. Manchester-based Shefa Mehadrin opened its first store in Golders Green last spring, offering customers reductions of up to 25 per cent compared to competitors. One firm working to help families put kosher meals on the table is the Kosher Outlet in Golders Green. Opened four years ago, the warehouse supermarket sells cut-price meat, poultry and groceries, with the aim of providing goods up to 30 per cent cheaper than regular kosher stores. The kashrus authorities share the concerns of both consumers and the butchers. Manchester Beth Din administrator Rabbi Yehuda Brodie acknowledged soaring prices, particularly for beef, were a problem across the non-kosher industry as well. He said: “We have not increased our shechita fees for probably a decade and have been able to avoid playing any part in the price increases. “One thing we’re doing, perhaps controversially, is slaughtering outside Britain, particularly in Eastern Europe. That makes the prices more affordable.”