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Why's Kosher Food So Expensive (and Healthy)


Rabbi Ari Shvat

Elul 6, 5782
I have a Jewish culture question. I hope that is ok in this group. When I have traveled to different countries in Eastern Europe, I have noticed that signing up to attend a Shabbat dinner (I would prefer not to name any organization who hosts specifically) is very, very expensive relative to the local prices or even the local currency in the country. Yes, I know that some people are traveling for business and can bill their work or some people are professors and can bill their work or some people are already wealthy and it is just fine. What about people who are students working their way through university who also want to meet the local Jewish community when they travel or people who did work their way through school who now have a young family and are trying to save and invest to build their future? Is the fee assumed to be a donation to the local Jewish community or are there serious complexities of getting kosher food in these places to host Shabbat with? For reference, the cost is order of magnitude wise three to six times the local cost of a dinner out at a local, expensive restaurant.
You ask a very unfortunate and painful question (although your estimates sound exaggerated...), nevertheless the many logical factors combine, add up to an inevitably more expensive product. Regarding meat, there are objectively very serious & complex conditions involved, including paying special slaughterers to travel to & live in far-out places; being that any animal which has even 1 of a long list of sicknesses, often even broken bones, is non-kosher, this disqualifies between 20-40% of all animals & parts of even the kosher animal are not kosher, all of which must be sold for pet-food or to gentile butchers (who exploit the situation) causing a significant loss (although it insures much healthier meat!). The meat must be soaked for 30 minutes, salted and thoroughly washed 3 times or individually grilled, which are all very (!) time-consuming. Outside of Israel (where the vast majority eats kosher), the kosher market is relatively tiny which inhibits mass-production (e.g. even in America, it's much less than even 1% of the population!), and on the other hand, it's so important to those that do eat kosher, that they're willing to pay a lot more. In Eastern Europe particularly, many of the kosher products must be painstakingly imported, with many "middle-men" taking their profit on the way. I would hope that the last 2 factors are not the critical point, and surely regarding Jewish organizations which are altruistically providing a nice service. I do know that Chabad and Bayit Yehudi are volunteering and non-profit, and we should be careful not to slander their holy and useful work (but often they are dependent on private caterers…). I imagine that turning to them personally with a particular economic problem would usually solve your problem. The only normative & logical solution is that which is obligated in the Torah (Bamidbar 33, 53): to live in Israel, our only Jewish State!
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