Friday, February 19, 2010

Kosher Chicken at Costco

Costco has been working hard to appeal to the Kosher consumer. A few Costco locations in Michigan have begun selling refrigerated kosher beef produced by Colorado Kosher.

I was at one Costco location today in Michigan and was surprised to see free samples of Kosher chicken being offered. Of course, the chicken was being cooked on the same grill that had been used for non-kosher food samples on a previous day (and is therefore no longer kosher), but it's the thought that counts.

I love that the woman distributing the samples (her name is Penny) told me that this kosher chicken is an excellent way to keep my family kosher during this Lenten season. Here's the video of Penny, Costco's Kosher Chicken "Spokesperson":


Roland Hansen said...

While the thought may be nice, the marketing ploy is obvious in its attempt at increasing the monetary standing of the Costco corporate elite.
Bottom line is kashrut laws have not been followed and the chicken is treyf. Therefore, Costco is guilty of false advertising and of making fraudulent claims. I am surprised that Chabad, OU, or some other Orthodox Jewish organization has not taken Costco to task.

As a Jewish person in the Reformed denomination, I do not keep kosher; however, I aghast that Costco would label and advertise something as kosher that is no longer kosher.

Shame on Costco and its display of corporate greed and ignorance of the Jewish religion and associated practices.

Rabbi Jason Miller said...

Roland, I don't think you're being fair to Costco. I'm a fan of Costco for several reasons. First, their level of customer service far exceeds most other corporations. They are also known for their loyalty to their employees. Second, they have a great selection of products at fair prices.

Costco has a wide array of kosher products and should therefore be praised, not deprecated, by the Jewish community.

As far as the accusation of "false advertising" goes, I have to disagree. The chicken that Costco sells is kosher. There are various levels of kosher observance within the Jewish community, and remember as well that not all kosher consumers are Jewish.

Personally, I would not eat the samples of cooked chicken that were being offered there because they were cooked in a presumably non-Kosher vessel. They also were not being supervised by a kosher expert to ensure there was no adulteration. That doesn't mean, however, that other kosher consumers wouldn't accept the sample of cooked chicken. My recommendation would be that Costco (or whatever entity is in charge of the samples) posts a sign that explains that while the product is certified kosher, they cannot claim the cooked food sample as certified kosher.

I know many people who purport to keep kosher, but would eat the "kosher" hot dogs at Costco or Sam's Club when they were available there (they have been discontinued). The kosher certification of those hot dogs did not meet every kosher consumer's acceptable level. Futher, they were grilled on the same grill as the non-kosher (treif) hot dogs. Again, the appropriate signage would have been a welcome addition for people's consideration.

I don't believe that Costco was doing anything that amounts to the "corporate greed" or "ignorance" of which you accuse them. The woman's statement that the chicken would be an excellent way to keep my family kosher during Lent may have shown her ignorance of other religions, but I found it to be funny rather than insulting.

Finally, I'm not a legal expert, but I do not think Costco violated any civil law by posting a sign that says the chicken was kosher. As a Conservative rabbi who serves as a kosher certifying agent (mashgiach), I'm against the civil intrusion into kashrut legislation. It is not for the government to say what is kosher and what is not; or to dictate which denomination's rabbis have the authority to declare which items (or establishments) are kosher. I plan to write more about that issue on this blog soon, so I encourage you to check back.

Esther Green said...

Costco used to sell the Empire flash frozen boneless, skinless chicken breast, but not for the last 5 years or so. The one near me recently stopped selling the Cabot kosher cheese, not happy about that one!!

Dave Henig said...

A case of you just say, "Yes, Indeed" and just move on :)