There are no dead people in this war, only thousands of slain chickens. And they are being sold in twos to the Israeli masses, as supermarket chains nationwide pull out all the stops in a fierce fowl price battle.
On Thursday, only a very few shoppers eschewed the chicken fight at Rami Levy's supermarket in Jerusalem, chiefly because of the long wait at the meat department. "I can't stand in this line. I have children at home I must rush to," Majda Ahmad, a regular customer, told The Jerusalem Post.
The war of the chickens began a week ago, with an announcement by Levy, a member of the Jerusalem City Council and the principal owner of the 11-store nationwide Rami Levy-Shivuk HaShikma chain, that he was cutting the price of the birds to NIS 0.79 per kilo; at this time of year the usual price is NIS 15-19. Levy limited the amount to four kilos per customer, or roughly two whole chickens.
He said selling the fowl at this price was profitable because of the additional customers the deal was attracting to his stores. But the move set feathers flying in competing stores.
The war has reached the adjacent Mega supermarket branch, also in Talpiot. On Monday the branch announced a price of NIS 1 per kilo of chicken, also limited to four kilos per customer, with a minimum purchase in the store of NIS 150. Mega said in a statement that it had decided to fight back and to be the cheapest supermarket in Jerusalem.
Amid the storm of the chicken fight, small butcher shops are almost forgotten.
Uri Adika, the owner of a butcher shop located between Rami Levy's and Mega's Talpiot branches, said he could not sell chicken at such a low price.
"I buy it from Tnuva or Tene [Noga] for about NIS 13 and sell it for 17.90 clean and cut up into pieces. I cannot compete with the big chains but can promise good service and clean chicken," said Adika. "This war lowers not just the price of the chicken but also its value. If the chicken knew it would sell for NIS 1, it wouldn't agree to be butchered!" Adika said with a laugh.
"I think the fact that I recently opened my 11th branch, in Haifa, and announced this price-cut in the Jerusalem, Modi'in and Haifa branches, annoyed the big supermarket chains, who started to threaten to ruin me and to take me and my company down," Levy told the Post.
The customers in Rami Levy's Talpiot branch in Jerusalem seemed rather happy on Thursday, even though they had to stand in line for 20-30 minutes before receiving their ration of two chickens per buyer.
"I have chicken in the freezer at home, but I am buying more today, solely because of the sale. But I heard that [the] Mega [supermarket chain] has a similar sale and that there you don't need to stand in line," Ilana Naim said as she waited in line.
"Once, when the country was young and poor, they used to buy with coupons. Nowadays, we buy with a note with numbers on them," said Beni Elchayani, in a reference to the numbered slips customers take to know their place in line.
Azam Razem, from east Jerusalem's Beit Hanina neighborhood, works in the meat department. "In Beit Hanina they sell one chicken for NIS 12. Here it's crazy, this is the Teddy Stadium of the chicken. People just don't stop coming," he said.
For some customers, the low price raises concerns; two years ago they were asked to be careful when buying chicken due to an outbreak of avian flu.
"My husband and sister told me not to buy this chicken, they are afraid something is wrong with it because it can't be this cheap. They said they won't eat it, but I don't believe they would sell meat that is not good," said a women standing in line at Rami Levy.
"We will not let competitors who act only out of price considerations lead this market. We will prove once again that we are the winning alternative," said Uri Pelach, deputy CEO of the Blue Square supermarket chain, which owns Mega.
Supersol Deal said in response: "As it was decided four years ago, Supersol Deal offered, offers and will continue to offer the cheapest basket of products, nationwide and locally."
The director-general of the Israel Consumer Council, Ehud Peleg, said competition was good for the customers. "But competition doesn't mean only low prices, but also good service and satisfying quality," Peled said.
"Without examining this specific case, I recommend that customers pay attention to other parameters, such as the cost of an entire basket of products, and not be misled by one cheap product in the store. In addition, make sure the quality of the discounted products and the service in the store are satisfying," he said.
The relevant authorities needed to monitor sales like this one and make sure consumers received a safe product, he added.