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Empire halts production for a day, leading to fears of kosher chicken shortage

JTA

March 5, 2013 | 8:01 am

Photo by Joerite/Wikipedia

Photo by Joerite/Wikipedia

Empire Kosher shut down production of kosher chickens for one day, leading to fears of a shortage for Passover.

The plant in Mifflintown, Pa., was scheduled to resume production on Monday after closing down on Feb. 28, Haaretz reported. Empire, which has a regular production schedule of Monday to Thursday, is the largest kosher poultry producer in the United States.

Company spokesperson Elie Rosenfeld told Haaretz that the plant did not slaughter the tens of thousands of chickens that arrived on Feb. 28 because about half of them were not at the appropriate weight. Waiting until Monday to process them allowed the birds time to grow.

An unnamed source told the newspaper that the birds were not processed because too many of them had snapped leg tendons, rendering them unkosher.

The snapped tendons are part of a mutation of a chicken virus called avian reovirus, the Forward reported. The virus is not harmful to humans.

Empire was hit by the virus in late January and early February, according to the Forward, which reported that 10 percent of slaughtered chickens at its Pennsylvania plant were unkosher at the peak of the virus.

Even before the temporary shutdown, which at least one observer told Haaretz would lead to a shortage of kosher chickens at Passover, “there were shortages in the last couple of weeks, since they started checking the tendons,” said the manager of the meat department at Gourmet Glatt in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn, who also asked that his name be withheld.

“In high season we were short,” he told the Israeli paper, adding that Gourmet Glatt turned to other slaughterhouses.

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