KA – Myths and Facts

November 1, 2013 by  
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The Kashrut Authority claims an article in the Australian Jewish News is “misleading” and presents a series of myths and facts….

The KA issued the following statement: “The recent article in the Jewish News (24/10/13), entitled “Kashrut Authority’s Monopoly in Jeopardy” is misleading. It suggests that Amaze in Taste was only provided with 17 hours notice to raise a $25,000 bond in return for being granted a licence, and, as a result, these “demands and preconditions made it impossible” for Amaze In Taste to do anything but go it alone without a licence. The article suggested that this would break the “monopoly” of the KA.”

Myth: The Kashrut Authority is an unfair monopoly

Fact: The KA’s role is to serve the whole community, not only part of it.

There are many communities in the world with multiple supervisory bodies, which generally means that when hosting a simcha, dependent on your family and your circle of friends, you could be required to provide food from many different hashgachot (supervising authorities). Apart from the nuisance value, you will likely lose some of the economies of scale afforded by dealing with one source for the whole function. A licensing body is established to uphold the standards expected by the community. Where there is only one licensing body, every member of the community follows the same procedures, and in the example of The KA, all community members can eat at any KA licensed function or venue with confidence. Furthermore, the inevitable competition between the two (or more) can lead to unseemly disputes between community members as to where they will and will not eat.

Those with longer memories will recall what we had in Sydney 23 or so years ago, prior to the amalgamation of The Sydney Beth Din Kashrut and The Yeshiva Rabbinate Kashrut. The Kashrut Authority represents the united efforts of the Beth Din and the Yeshiva Rabbinate ensuring the highest standards of kashrut for the entire community.

Myth: The Kashrut Authority only allows meat from its own supervision at its catered functions in order to protect either a particular butcher or its own sources of income.

Fact: That is not correct, it is based on very sound halachic principles.

The income of The Kashrut Authority is not affected by whether or not meat is purchased from a butcher under its supervision or another under different supervision. The Kashrut Authority charges a flat fee for the entire shechita of poultry and for the entire shechita of meat. It is not volume-related. Whether a thousand chickens or five thousand chickens are shechted, the fee is the same and it covers only the “shechita budget” i.e. shochtim, Mashgichim at the abattoir and related expenses. The net affect is the more meat or poultry shechted, the smaller the net per kilo kashrut charge.

Furthermore, The Kashrut Authority protects no butcher or manufacturer. Any person or group of people who satisfy our halachic requirements is entitled to a kosher licence, including a butcher’s licence, and will receive the full support of The Kashrut Authority.

Shechita is the most sensitive and delicate aspect of kosher supervision. It requires unique expertise and specific diligence. As such, it has been the practice throughout the Jewish world for a particular community that has its own shechita, supervised to its own standard, to be used Our policy was examined by the ACCC – the independent consumer watchdog – some years ago and was approved. More information can be found on the ACCC website.

Myth: Kosher meat and poultry is dearer at the butcher shop in Sydney compared with other outlets as The Kashrut Authority allows only one butcher.

Fact: Prices can vary for a multitude of reasons, some related to location.

Firstly, poultry is not dearer in Sydney – some items are much cheaper, while some cuts of other meats may be more expensive. The reasons are not reflective of any imposition by The Kashrut Authority. As stated earlier, The Kashrut Authority fee is a flat fee – this effectively results in a reduction of net cost as production grows. There are many factors that determine the price of meat, and as general costs and overheads are more expensive in Sydney, this filters down to the final price. One thing is certain: the more the Sydney community supports the local butcher the greater his volume and ultimately the cheaper the price.

Myth: The price of Sydney kosher meat, and the KA function kashrut charges are the causes of high priced kosher catering in Sydney, and the cause of the demise of Passion8 catering.

Fact: KA function charges replace an annual licence fee charged in most other jurisdictions, which can be inequitable to the smaller caterers.

The Kashrut Charge at catered functions can be found on our website, http://www.ka.org.au/index.php/Function_Charges.html, and is, on average, $4.59 per head. Reductions are granted to communal organisations and Shule kiddushim. There has been only modest increase in these charges since their introduction in 1991.

If functions are more expensive here, the price of meat and the kashrut charge are not the contributing factors. Similarly, in relation to the collapse of Passion8, a cursory reading of the administrator’s report (a public document) reveals that the problems were not related to kashrut. Indeed the Administrator, when running the business made a handsome profit using Sydney meat and paying Sydney Kashrut Charges.

Addressing the notion that the cost of meat is the cause of high catering prices: firstly, it is acknowledged in the market place that poultry prices were similar in Sydney to Melbourne. If therefore it is only meat that is more expensive in Sydney, why is catering for poultry, fish, dairy and even Pareve also more expensive than in Melbourne? Furthermore, even if there is a difference between the price of kosher meat here compared to Melbourne, when calculating that difference in relation to a specific 200 gram or 300 gram portion, the difference becomes relatively insignificant compared to the total charge. There is anecdotal evidence that some Melbourne meat is cheaper in Sydney than in Melbourne

 

Myth: The Kashrut Authority is a clandestine operation and its “books” are hidden from view and scrutiny.

Fact: This is not even possible, The KA is an incorporated association governed by NSW laws that preclude such practices.

The Kashrut Authority was established in 1990 by the merger of the Sydney Beth Din and the Yeshiva Rabbinate and is a Rabbinic body, constituted as an incorporated association governed by the laws of NSW. It fulfils statutory requirements and these include filing an annual financial summary – audited by external auditors – available to all via the Dept. of Fair Trading. Similarly, anyone is invited to view our accounts at the KA office. Recently members of the JCA engaged in just such an exercise.

Myth: The KA acted improperly in even asking Amaze In Taste to initiate a payment plan for the repayment of the debt owed to the KA. It would have made the KA preferential creditors.

Fact: On the advice of its lawyers The KA acted well within the parameters of the law, and preferential payment was not an issue.

Myth: The KA demanded a guarantee of $300,000 from AIT.

Fact: This simply never happened.

The KA requested a personal guarantee from the sole director of AIT, and a bond of $25,000 – the amount of credit that would have been extended over a period of approximately three weeks. It is standard practice to issue bonds and they are used throughout the Kashrut world, as highlighted by the recent public letter issued by the respected OK Kosher Certification Agency.

Myth: The KA’s requirements were unreasonable and outside of commercial norms.

Fact: It is normal business practice, especially when taking into account past credit history, to obtain personal guarantees as well as, in many instances, a bank guarantee or bond. In a normal commercial environment “Trust me ” is not sufficient, indeed, as the KA is ultimately serving the community, to ask for less is to abrogate our fiduciary responsibilities.

Myth: Only one caterer in Sydney can fulfil the needs of our community

Fact: Not true and offensive to the KA licensed caterers.

Amongst the 14 kosher caterers under direct supervision of The KA, and 7 restaurants/take-aways/delis, of varying sizes, all employing professional chefs, there is more than adequate ability to cater for all functions from the largest to the smallest. If necessary, and as in the past caterers can combine to produce very large functions. Front Page and Cherry Bim did this on many occasions.

Myth: It is the Mashgiach (Kashrut supervisor) on the ground that ensures Kashrut standards. All you need is a member of the caterer’s staff to act as Mashgiach.

Fact: The Mashgiach is only the “eyes” of the Rabbinic authority behind the Mashgiach.

In order for a Mashgiach to be effective, he must be employed by an independent kashrut organisation, and he must find his security of employment with them. As soon as he becomes the caterer’s employee, or a self-employed Mashgiach, he is compromised by the fear of losing his job. This practice is unacceptable throughout the Jewish world, and it is considered as if there is no supervision at all.

Furthermore, a Mashgiach is only the eyes and ears of the Rabbinic infrastructure that employs him, and to whom he is ultimately responsible. It is the rabbis that make policy, answer questions and ensure that the Mashgiach knows what to do. It is The Kashrut Authority that ensures replacement Mashgichim, additional Mashgichim, and adherence to Halachic norms. It is the Rabbinic Administrator of The KA together with his assistant and the senior supervisors, who oversee the Mashgichim and ensure the highest standards of kashrut are adhered to in any situation. Any other structure invites an obvious conflict of interest.

 

Comments

4 Responses to “KA – Myths and Facts”
  1. Baron says:

    Shosh,

    Steven is on the right track. Estimates put the Muslim population at as many as 500,000 as opposed to 100,000 Jews. A much higher proportion of Muslims eat halal than Jews who keep kosher, hence there are enormous economies of scale. As we stated in “Myths & Facts”, the more animals that are processed kosher, the lower the kashrut charges per kilo, therefore the lower the price of kosher meat in general.

  2. Steven says:

    Shosh, how many Muslims live in Australia ?

    Ian, what difference does it make who prepared the article ?

  3. Shosh says:

    Can anyone please explain why Halal meat is at least 50% to 75% cheaper than kosher meat when the animals are basically slaughtered and prepared the same way? KA PLEASE EXPLAIN!

  4. Ian says:

    Hi Henry

    I don’t want become involved In this argument but…..

    When I read comments such as “some items ARE cheaper while some cuts of other meats MAY be more expensive”, I really have to ask whether this statement was prepared by the KA or a sophisticated PR company.

    I suspect that some cuts of other meats not MAY be but ARE more expensive and that is a large part of the problem.

    Regards

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