New York – Feather Problem With Kosher Chickens And Why

    16

    Inspection by trained rabbis is one of the important differences between kosher and regular processing New York – Kosher chickens seem to have more feathers still attached than do non-kosher chickens. The skin is often torn as well. Why?

    Join our WhatsApp group

    Subscribe to our Daily Roundup Email


    I’d always wondered this myself, and the question came up when I was speaking recently to a REAP (Retired Executives and Professionals) group in Roslyn.

    Cooks of all religions buy kosher chickens because they tend to be tastier and juicier. During the koshering process, the birds are soaked and salted and, as advocates of brining know, this lends the meat more flavor and a moister texture.

    But it turns out that another aspect of the koshering process contributes to “the feather problem.”

    Conventional chickens are soaked in hot water before they are plucked. In the same way that it’s easier to pluck your eyebrows immediately after you get out of a hot shower, chicken feathers are easier to pluck once the birds have come out of a hot bath.

    Kosher chickens, however, cannot be soaked in hot water – that would be akin to cooking them before koshering them, which is forbidden by Jewish law. (The text governing this area is section 68:10 of the Yoreh De’ah, part of the 14th century legal code Arba’ah Turim.)

    I’ll quote here from an article, by Pan Demetrakakes, about how Empire Kosher processes chicken. It ran in the September 1999 issue of Food Processing Magazine:

    “Removal of feathers is especially problematic for kosher plants, because Kashrus forbids the use of heated water in processing. The birds must go through eight defeathering machines that use cold water, each of whose rubber fingers use different motions. Even so, many feathers and pinfeathers remain; [Empire’s then-COO James] Reed says that about 70 workers downstream of evisceration are devoted entirely to removing residual feathers …

    “Reed estimates that because of the requirements of kosher processing, Empire’s evisceration line is about twice as long as that of a non-kosher plant of comparable size.”

    Empire’s own Web site acknowledges the issue. The cold water “closes up the follicles in the skin and makes feather removal very difficult. There are an average of 8,325 feathers on a chicken. We try to remove them all. We have a line devoted to feather removal. We have added additional people to hand-remove excess feathers.”

    Furthermore, because of the difficulty of plucking a cold bird, “sometimes the skin gets torn during processing and feather removal.”

    The Jewish Star had an interesting article in 2007 about empire chicken and why there are still feathers, you can read it here


    Listen to the VINnews podcast on:

    iTunes | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | Podbean | Amazon

    Follow VINnews for Breaking News Updates


    Connect with VINnews

    Join our WhatsApp group


    16 Comments
    Most Voted
    Newest Oldest
    Inline Feedbacks
    View all comments
    Anonymous
    Anonymous
    15 years ago

    Sounds like someone is trying to instigate some sort of trouble. This is the halacha, who has a problem with that?

    Puzzled
    Puzzled
    15 years ago

    Can anyone here figure out what this guy here wants??

    Perhaps he’s trying to say that people of other religions should stop buy kosher because of the feather problem?

    Lock & Load
    Lock & Load
    15 years ago

    Sounds to me they want to have a Reason to Raise the Price of Chicken……
    Lock & Load

    Anonymous
    Anonymous
    15 years ago

    What a Chicken Plucker!!

    know it
    know it
    15 years ago

    One thing which was done at Empire since the orig. article was printed is that the machines were moved closer to the shochtim. This helps the removal of feathers, but costs them in a different way. With this move, the chickens are defeathered by the time a knife is checked for nicks. Therefore, if a nick is found, all chickens from that line must be thrown out as they are not botel. This results in a few hundred chickens becoming fertilizer. BTW, chickens from Canada are cleaner since law there disallows ANY feathers on product.

    Milhouse
    Milhouse
    15 years ago

    The Federal Trade Commission did a study of the kosher chicken market about ten years ago. One of the things it found was that Canadian kosher chickens are almost completely feather-free, because Canadian law doesn’t make an exception for kosher on this point, so the kosher processors just have to hire people to pluck them by hand. Even this leaves more feathers than are found on treife chickens, but it’s a lot closer than can be done by machine, and enough to satisfy the Canadian government inspectors. This makes the chickens cost more, but they’re of higher quality, and the FTC found that USA consumers regarded the Canadian chickens as a quality item that they preferred if they could afford it, but customers on a budget preferred the cheaper American chickens, feathers and all.

    The Newsday article isn’t making any kind of point, it’s just explaining to the general consumer why those tasty kosher chickens have so many feathers. Unfortunately nobody told the reporter about an advantage that the cold-water bath has: kosher chickens are a lot less likely than treif ones to have salmonella. The hot water bath that loosens the feathers of treife chickens is also a breeding ground for salmonella, and it is the point where it spreads from one bird to others. That’s why so many treife chickens have it. By washing kosher birds in cold water, the spread of salmonella is limited, and if a bird didn’t have it before the shechita it’s not likely to pick it up after.

    Meatloaf
    Meatloaf
    15 years ago

    Milhouse:
    The primary source for salmonella in poultry is unsanitary conditions at the farm, not in the processing plant. For example, recent (last 12 months) incidents at Agriprocessor were traced back to the farms that contract grow birds for the plant and if I remember correctly, it was Agriprocessor itself that identified the source of the problem.

    YANKEL
    YANKEL
    15 years ago

    Can anyone explain why some brands of chicken have many more feathers than others? I’ve found that the Hischidus among the most feathered.

    mother
    mother
    15 years ago

    Today, I heard a kosher butcher in a kosher meat market say “such and such a brand of kosher chicken has too many feathers”.

    The problem is not from outside, but it is within our communities.

    I remove the feathers or they just singe off in the hot oven. No one complains about my chicken; the secret is in the sauce which is poured on half an hour before the cooking is done (after the feathers singe off).

    Anonymous
    Anonymous
    15 years ago

    feathers, feathers some chickens have more than my pillows

    Anonymous
    Anonymous
    15 years ago

    Is this a complaint, or an explanation to give to those who ask. As a mashgiach I have explained this to many people. Once they heard the “why” they were no longer upset. Before hearing this explanation, many thought it was just carelessness.

    Lameduck
    Lameduck
    15 years ago

    the colder the water the more fether the chicken get leftover with so the more frumer the hechsher the more fethers it has

    Anonymous
    Anonymous
    15 years ago

    My grandfather sold chickens (I remember the live ones he kept in his basement & the stink) & as a child I never remember having such dirty chickens. Mass production isn’t what it cracks up to be. I remember watching my zeide, my father, & Feter Zev Wolf sit on the back stoop each with a schechted chicken pulling out the kishkes, the little yellow eggs, & then plucking them, feathers everywhere. Mama never had a problem cleaning them afterwards! We had fresh chickens, pupik in the soup & the unshelled eggs (which are fleishig!) that you just can’t buy anymore, FDA regulations.

    Aah, the memories!! This is a fascinating article.

    yisroel
    yisroel
    15 years ago

    I worked as a Bodek Treifos Mashgiach at Empire for ten years, and I found the facts in the article true. I down-loaded it for my mother-in Law to read

    Hindle
    Hindle
    4 years ago

    I noticed the kosher chicken “feather problem” started about 10-15 years ago. Over the years the chickens are getting more and more hairy. It’s not uncommon now to find a couple of dozen feather ends on your dinner bird. In the 70’s & 80’s in New York you would never sell a kosher chicken with even one “feather hair.” Who likes eating with a smelly burned feather in thier food ? Either the processors are incompetent, lazy, cheap or thier employees completely don’t care. If you complain everyone down the line likes to play dumb. I think not enough people complain, even one feather ruins what could have been a nice cooked chicken meal.