Rabbinate monopoly on kashrut causing increased food costs report finds

“Kashrut has become a source of desecration of Gods name and not for the sanctification of His name," says MK Elazar Stern.

The rabbis of the Council of the Chief Rabbinate (photo credit: CHIEF RABBINATE)
The rabbis of the Council of the Chief Rabbinate
(photo credit: CHIEF RABBINATE)
A government-commissioned document to examine the cost of kashrut to consumers has revealed that significant proportions of the cost of everyday food items are due to kashrut regulations and that significant savings could be made by reducing the monopoly of the Chief Rabbinate over the provision of kashrut services.
According to the Finance Ministry report, kashrut costs amount to NIS 2.8 billion a year, some 3% of the cost of food consumption in the restaurant and catering business.
The report found that between NIS 300-600 million of the NIS 2.8 is due to the monopoly of the Chief Rabbinate and stringencies not used by basic kashrut authorities outside of Israel.
The document specifies the cost per kilo of different products entailed by kashrut regulations and in places points out the disparity between the price of products made in Israel and abroad.
One example was choice cuts of beef from the hind quarters of a cow.
The cost of kashrut for such beef from kosher slaughterhouses in Israel is NIS 41.23 compared to NIS 27.29 for imported beef.
The cost of cheaper cuts from the forequarters of the animal for beef from Israel was NIS 5.65 per kilo compared to NIS 3.08 for imported beef.
The document was discussed in the Knesset Economics Committee on Tuesday following a request for a hearing on the matter by Yesh Atid MK Elazar Stern.
Present at the hearing was Hoteliers Association head Noad Bar-Nir, who said that 3.3% of hotel costs are due to kashrut, and that 15% of the cost of food at hotels is due to kashrut.
“NIS 600 million a year is not the cost of kashrut but rather of the monopoly of kashrut,” said Stern at the hearing.
“Unfortunately, kashrut has become a source of desecration of Gods name and not for the sanctification of His name. We, the consumers of kashrut, try to have as many kosher places as possible but in practice this is taken advantage of for economic profit and religious profit.”
Stern pointed to legislation he has introduced whereby regional jurisdictions for kashrut licensing would be abolished, thereby fostering competition among the different local religious councils, which are authorized by the Chief Rabbinate to provide kashrut licenses to businesses, restaurants and food stores, in order to drive costs down and improve the service.
Economics Committee chairman MK Eitan Cabel said that the purpose of the hearing was to protect the consumers of kashrut services and kosher products.
“Everyone should be able to chose the kashrut license he wants and then there can be competition,” said Cabel. “This is a political and economic struggle, no-one should say that this is a religious struggle.”
MK Uri Maklev of United Torah Judaism spoke out fiercely against the findings of the report and the hearing itself.
“This is a populist debate intended to antagonize,” said Maklev. “As if all business expenses are fine and only kashrut is a waste. “What is motivating the MKs calling for this hearing is not connected to costs but rather to their need to go after kashrut and kashrut consumers.”