As Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called on the general public "not to panic" over the bird flu epidemic Sunday, owners of small stores braced themselves for a drop in poultry sales.
Butcher Chaim Traibitsch said he expected a drop in sales at his two Jerusalem-area stores and in orders from his Mevaseret Zion-based meatpacking factory Shivuk Ben, which supplies numerous institutions, hospitals, restaurants and caterers.
"The media loves to exaggerate," he said Sunday afternoon. "Bird flu cannot spread to humans by eating infected chicken if it is well-cooked."
He noted, however, that "this thing has only just started, but I am sure there will be a dramatic fall in sales of poultry. It now really depends on the faith of the public."
Traibitsch, whose Rehavia-based Tiferet Butchers has served the capital for more than 40 years, said that the bulk of his poultry came from farms in the North of the country and not from the area in the South where bird flu was detected last week.
He added that all his deliveries arrived with a veterinarian's stamp of approval. The Health Ministry has cautioned the public to buy poultry only from places that were supervised by the Veterinary Service.
"Salmonella is a bigger health risk than the bird flu," said Traibitsch, pointing to the area in his factory where the food was prepared and stored.
"There are numerous stores operating without a Health Ministry license," claimed Traibitsch. "As a factory you need a Health Ministry license but as a store you only need a business license. Who knows if all their poultry is supervised by the Veterinary Service?"
Avner Zaken, another Mevaseret Zion butcher, hoped that the public would not be put off from buying its poultry from smaller meat suppliers. Many of the Israeli papers advised readers to only buy in the large supermarkets.
"Our delivery comes on the same shipment," said Zaken, who is the main butcher at Melech Haof Vehabasar (Chicken and Meat King).
"I check three things when the meat arrives - the kosher license, the Veterinary Service's stamp of approval and the date of shipment," he added, holding up the official documentation for a shipment of chicken that had arrived in his shop on Thursday.
"If people want to believe the hype in the media, that is their problem," he said. "You are probably more likely to get sick from eating in restaurants in Abu Ghosh, where the chicken is only half-cooked."
He added that, as yet, he had not seen a drop in sales of chickens, but that the news was still fairly fresh.