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Kosher Costs

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Topic: England, Kosher Food

Name@Withheld from the UK wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

How does a Jew like myself feed my disabled daughter kosher food on such a low income? The place where they sell kosher food is usually one place in a community. This is true here where I live in the UK. All kosher food is always extensively more expensive then non-kosher food. I therefore will suffer in eternal afterlife as the greed of the people who sell kosher meat know quite well that we can only get kosher meat at their place, so they charge extra, as do their wholesalers, and the Rabbis whom charge for doubling the price of sugar at Pesach (Passover) just to say a blessing.

Dear Name@Withheld,

The price of kosher products can be frustrating, and your anger is understandable. And if one is indeed in great financial difficulty, G-d takes that into account in judging the person. A low-income, however, is not a reason to eat non-kosher food. Perhaps a reader willing to offer you some concrete help or advice could contact us via e-mail:

The economic reality is such that in order to produce kosher food, greater care, supervision and manpower is required, as well as different and sometimes more expensive ingredients and processes.

Here's one example: Gelatin is made from non-kosher animal bones - very available, and very cheap. Kosher food substitutes "agar-agar," a seaweed extract that is not as common and therefore more expensive. In addition, a supervisor must be paid to make sure no unkosher ingredients are "snuck" in.

Another factor is the small size of the kosher market relative to the greater market. Producing in bulk brings down costs, so unkosher products can sometimes be produced for less.

Kosher meat has its own special requirements, from the specially trained slaughterer to the inspection for treifot (lesions, etc.) These inspections are stricter than government standards, and animals that don't pass inspection cause a monetary loss. A special process is required for the removal of many parts, as well as salting to remove the blood. All these processes require salaried manpower.

Regarding Passover, the Rabbi does not bless the sugar. What actually happens is that a Rabbi or a supervisor oversees the production to ensure that no leavened products come in contact with the sugar. Or the machines at the sugar plant (which may also be used to process other substances not kosher for Passover) may need to be cleaned. Again, such supervision requires paying someone a salary to do it.

Furthermore, since Passover is only once a year, many Passover supervision jobs are short term, for only a few weeks or months, and require long hours. As such, few people want such jobs, so owners must offer higher salaries.

There are many foods that are kosher on the general market that can be bought at any supermarket and are not more expensive than regular products. For a complete list, I suggest that you contact the London Beth Din for their "Really Kosher Food Guide," which should be available in any Jewish bookstore.

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