MAILBAG: Is There a Kosher Food Pricing Conspiracy?


Look around at any Jewish neighborhood and you’ll find families struggling. Not one or two, but dozens. I’m talking about families not being able to cough up the money to keep their homes heated. And some can’t even buy food.

The food part is what troubles me most. It’s not a secret that inflation has taken a chunk out of everyone’s bank accounts. Everything we need to buy is more expensive; from cheaper items to large expenses, costs have soared for everyone. But this problem appears to be much more acute in the frum community.

Take a look at food prices. The prices of eggs, chicken, meat, dairy – literally everything – has shot up way beyond the amount that prices have gone up in non-kosher supermarkets. Yes, everyone is paying higher prices, but why are we paying 20% more than the already inflation-affected prices in Walmart, ShopRite, and Costco?

What really needs to be asked, and I don’t intend to create a firestorm, is: are kosher food manufacturers using inflation as an excuse to jack up prices well beyond what they need to stay profitable? Have they found a way to enrich themselves off the backs of hardworking, struggling fellow Jews?

I could be wrong. Perhaps they have no option, for whatever reason, but to raise their prices beyond what non-kosher stores are hiking them to. I can’t say for sure. But if that is true, I’d like to know why and I want to know how it can be fixed. There are too many families unable to put food on the table for this crisis to be ignored. There are too many families relying on Tomchei Shabbos for us not to demand answers.

Chaim F. – Lakewood, NJ

NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of YWN.


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  1. Bravo …for someone finally having the courage to speak out against all the “Highway Robbery ” !!! My Mother in Law ע”ה used to tell over , how it was the same in Europe before the war . Those crooks are the ones who get honored at dinners , because “it’s all about the Benjamins ” !!! Forgive me , if I ruffled anyone’s feathers .

  2. Were prices were 20% higher before this high inflation also?

    Saying you don’t intend to make a firestorm makes it sound like you know it will and stating your intentions just looks like you’re doing it anyways despite knowing what will happen.

    Peotdont set prices that way. How much profit do you want them to make $1 $2? The way prices are set are based on supply and demand. If people are willing to pay more the store will charge more. I’d you don’t like it go somewhere. If enough people do the same they will have to lower their prices.

  3. They did a study in Israel and the חד פעמי prices went WAY up higher than they “needed” to with the new tax. They do it because they can. It’s a few rackets, monopolies and cartels.

  4. This is an issue across many different themes in Jewish culture. A lulav and etroeg for $150?

    Try buying one 2 days after succor and it’s $1.50

    Matzoh at $35 a pound (only flour and water),
    A loaf of bread with much more weight is $3

    Until we stop being willing to pay the thieving prices, then we will continue to get taken advantage of.

    In 1902 Jewish woman stood up and demanded butchers stop raising meat prices- and even rooted.

    I don’t believe in doing damage as that is against halacha- but refusing to buy items at the higher prices will force them to have to come down

  5. Ever since I’ve been responsible for my own food bill about 7 years ago, I’ve just about always have been buying the majority of food in non Jewish supermarkets (the exception being meat and dairy. You can sometimes even find checked spinach with a hechsher.) The price difference wasn’t 20%, my monthly food bill was about 40-60% cheaper. This was in the 5 boroughs. I would generally drive to stores like Aldi, BJs, Food bazaar, and Key Food. BJs has a large kosher bakery too. Sure, you probably won’t find any heimish products, but they are not missed

  6. The real reason why kosher food/restaurants are low quality and horrible both food wise and service wise has nothing to do with being kosher and all to so with just not caring because orthodox have no choice. It’s called taking advantage. They know you can’t eat just anywhere so either you like it or not too bad. Rude service as if they are doing you a favor and all with high prices and horrible food.

    Of course the exceptions are high scale restaurants which prove that kosher doesn’t mean it HAS to be bad. It’s more the ones behind it that make it that way.

    And let’s not even get into the rent prices in Jewish neighborhoods.

  7. I’m certain there are some local efforts to “fix prices” on certain products but doubt there is any overall conspiracy across multiple products and regional markets. We all know the usual factors recited for the much higher prices for kosher products versus their treif equivalents including hashgacha, very small market and correspondingly small market participants who purchase at small scale and don’t qualify for discounts available to larger purchasers, limited number of approved suppliers for product ingredients, etc. etc.
    Bottom line: Its a free market and its been more than a decade that any government body actually conducted an inquiry into kosher price-fixing. Just get used to it if you want to maintain kashruth and avoid some of the most obscenely priced products. Very few YWN readers will consider “lowering” their kashruth standards to purchase a lower priced “kosher” product w/o a top of the line chassideshe hashgacha.

  8. @DD2020 people can’t go elsewhere. Not everyone has a car or the time to spend hours in traffic. Also, where else can they go to buy meat products?

    (Agav, Bingos in borough park and Aaron’s Kissena Farms in flushing both have fair enough prices for things like chicken and even some kinds of meat. And it’s a major misconception that kashrus makes meat cost so much more. The labor and manpower aren’t so different from a regular non kosher slaughterhouse. Of course it is more, but not highenoughto justify the prices)

  9. Aside for fresh meat, chicken, fish, and fresh produce, the vast majority of kosher food is controlled by one company. But don’t worry, the more they take from you, the more they can give to tzedaka.

  10. Speaking about being wrong:- Any & everyone who endorsed or/& voted for hochul, a major cause of the inflation, and mark my word:- The city shall be so inundated with law suits for all the burned impounded cars 🚗 in Red Hook, that many families shall be even more impoverished when the city increases city taxes to pay off all these lawsuits which shall be colossal the likes of which we have never witnessed previously

  11. You are 100% right about the pricing, and forgive me for saying so, also 100% foolish for buying any of those items at a kosher supermarket. I only buy necessary items at the kosher stores (meat, chicken, and CY milk), and use delivery apps for everything else. Even with the annual subscription and tips, I’m coming out way ahead. Did you ever see prices in Walmart, Lidl, or Aldi? It’s like shopping in the 60’s!

  12. Products that need to be made in a special way to be kosher (e.g. meat, chalav Yisrael), will always be much more expensive, both because of the extra “kosher” steps, and the lack of economies of scale.

    Even crowded kosher supermarkets will still have extra expenses for products that don’t require special efforts to be made kosher (such as eggs). In fact many kosher stores are relatively small compared to major supermarkets, not to mention they are closed for Shabbos and Yuntuf, whereas the big supermarkets are open 365 days a year (meaning overhead is spread over a base is is roughly 20% larger). In general big stores are cheaper than small ones (economies of scale, etc.). If you compare kosher store prices for items also sold in small goyish stores (e.g. bodegas) that are identical (eggs, stam halav, bread from non-Jewish companies, fruits and vegetables), they are similar.

  13. Thank you for bringing this up. The food prices are insane! A bag of romaine lettuce is 9$ Just a year ago it was 5-6$! No i can not keep telling my children “don’t buy this, don’t buy that b/c we cant afford it”. I wish someone can help out those hard working families that don’t have food stamps put bread on the table.

  14. I think the reason why Jewish grocery stores charge more than non Jewish stores is because the store is smaller so they buy less inventory. The more stores buy in bulk, the cheaper it is per product. Since all these non Jewish stores have chain stores all around the country, they’re able to buy more inventory for all their stores, and not just for one small grocery store.

  15. Yudel Shain has brought this to the Tzibur numerous times.
    It’s the Heimish manufacturers, distributors and Heimish Hashgochas.
    The general mark-up by Distributors is 7% +_, by the heimish it’s 25-40% (depending at the areas, Willy V 5 Towns or midwest).

    The heimish manufacturers are doing the same rip-offs.
    If anyone thinks that the Heimish Hashgochas is better that the OU, they are mistaken.

    The Heimish Hashgochas use just about every OU ingredient in their products.

    Strike, buy only OU Parve in the supermarkets, where we can avoid the Heimish distributors.

  16. Why is cholev Yisroel priced so much higher than regular milk? The price has increased to double the price of cholev akum. Can a mashgiach cost $1 a gallon to watch the cows being milked?

  17. I was also wondering, why are eggs almost double the price in the from owned stores? I know their prices went to everywhere, but why so much more in the from stores?

    The percentage of increase in the from stores is a lot more than in the non frum owned stores.

    They are taking advantage. Period.

  18. Why label it a conspiracy?? It’s outright greed and abuse in the open. Go see the difference in stores like Trader Joes, Costco, Target and Walmart. Especially for fruits and vegetables.
    $10-$11 for Andy Boy lettuce – In any non heimshe store $3-$4
    $4-$5 for a dozen eggs in Costso its $2-$3 for cage free grade AA
    $3.99 to $4.99 for a lb peppers in all other stores more like $1.99 or less
    Since when did a box snackers become $4.99-$5.99 – Seriously, flour and water?
    I can give many more examples of prices that nullify the inflation excuse. As it’s only in our local stores that we are getting downright abused. And the companies selling them are heaping in huge profits and laughing us to the bank! You wont see the owners of any those companies struggling.

  19. I Agree with the writer. I am a careful shopper and I pay attention to prices. Many packaged food items have increased well beyond 30-40%. I am not referring just to the increase in foods like eggs and milk but to snacks, sauces, packaged baked goods and more. I’m the type of person who usually knows the average price on every item and now certain items are just astronomically inflated. Like for example, the sale price on some items recently posted in my local grocery is now more than their normal price just a year ago. My food bills have gone up maybe 25%.

  20. I think the author makes a good point. Why is the same shabbos grape juice significantly cheaper in places like Costco while the same grape juice is significantly pricier in kosher supermarkets in Jewish neighborhoods? We live in Queens in a frum neighborhood with 4 giant kosher supermarkets yet these same items are much more expensive in these supermarkets?

    Not here to judge the supermarkets but I thought for basic items prices should be regulated just like everywhere else.

    Maybe these supermarkets have significant overhead costs that we are unaware of. Maybe they don’t buy in bulk like the giant chain stores do. However, regardless of inflation (being that it is worst now), the prices for many basic items are a whopping 30% more than non Jewish supermarkets and sometimes 50% more. So even if you take into account that they are not like the giant supermarkets because they are not buying in bulk, they can still make a healthy profit margins without taking their Damim (pun intended).

    Yes we have an obligation to give business to our Jewish brethren, but that is only when the price difference is nominal (16%=1/6).

  21. It’s not a conspiracy, it’s the consumer. In the course of what I do for a living (in the finance field) I recently came across food operators who all plainly informed me that simply charge what the market bears and they keep testing the market by going up in price until it peaks.

    I for one, have stopped buying chopped liver in my local store when it went from 4.50 to 8.00 and indeed the price went down slightly since. I also stopped buying Mishpacha and Ami, sourdough bread and muffins and any milk not named “Smart Milk” which for some reason is 25% cheaper than any other milk even though I presume it’s from the same cow family. It’s not necessarily that I can’t afford it – it’s really a matter of principal.

    Further, despite my former desire (al pi halacha) to support frum establishments, I know pretty much shop at Costco where eggs, fruits and vegtables and meat are literally half price (and even cheaper than the wholesale price – as I know restaurateurs who buy Costco kosher meat over wholesale).

    Frankly, however, the issue isn’t so much the store owners as it’s us. Formerly, a grocery store owner was a regular old fashioned person with a small store that just sold kosher food. Now a grocery store owner is the “shtat’s gvir” and the stores are emporiums that look like FAO Schwartz for foodies with kol minei fresseri. That cost money and if it’s what the frum olam is looking for then so be it but it won’t be cheap.

    (The simpler stores just copy the pricing of the larger ones without offering the same “boutique food experience.”)

  22. That distributors and merchants overcharge, and then give more tzedokoh is a bizarre excuse. Those struggling to pay the high prices are the ones that need. No one asked them to serve as gabboei tzedokoh. This ruse is a way of excusing thievery.

    There is another factor in inflation that we often fail to recognize. The worst place for inflation is the end product at retail. All the increases, from manufature, shipping, distribution, and more are cumulative. It is the consumer that foots the bill for all of it.

    Many grocery stores I know have accounts there, where customers charge their purchases. Some write off the balances frequently, finding a buildupo of charges without payments, and they investigate to discover that the family simply can’t manage. Aside from that, there are baalei tzedokoh who quietly visit such groceries and make payments on outstanding balances. So with all the distaste we rightfully have for the huge price hikes, the system is not all evil.

  23. yes 100% correct.

    take for example milk. some boro park strores sell milk for 3.19 or 3.25 for golden flow and devash and 2.89 for fresh and healthy. while the strores who care nothing about their customers money ask 3.99 for devash and golden flow and 3.29 for fresh and tasty. 25 % more

  24. We don’t pay more for eggs, that will stay high for a couple months, we don’t pay much more for produce, because there’s a choice, but man are we paying for Cholov Yisroel and meet & poultry

  25. For those wondering why chalav Yisroel is more expensive than regular milk, you’ve clearly never tried getting a cow to convert to Judaism. Everybody knows cows overwhelmingly support Hinduism.

  26. Cream cheese $4.19 for us, $2 on the street.
    Greek yogurt 32 oz $6.79 for us, $3.50 if I wanted Stam.
    Chunk tuna double the price $1.40 from $0.80
    American cheese 24 slices, $9.69 Shemesh, $4.98 Kraft.

  27. It’s not “capitalism,” but collusion and price-fixing, which is illegal.

    Former manager of a Monsey pizza shop told me that Monsey pizza shops collectively set prices and quality standards.
    They do this so as to ensure little-to-no competition, neither on price nor quality.
    Prices are set as high as possible and quality as low as they can get away with.
    Agreements are made not only on prices, but how much cheese will be on the pizza and that sushi ingredients be of similar standard (in his words, “garbage.”)

    Those who think supermarkets are just passing on wholesaler gouging (which happens as well),
    consider the following:

    Take-out rotisserie chicken (no side dishes):
    Monsey kosher supermarket: $32
    Costco price: $4.99 (a loss leader, but not by a lot).
    Stop ‘N Shop: $7.99
    Shoprite: $7.99
    Safeway price: $8.99
    Whole Foods: $10.99

  28. unless you spoke to the owners you cannot publicly assail them. The owners of these stores do so much chesed and it is a Halacha that we must shop in shomer shabbos stores, plus many in the community use food stamps.

  29. I live in lakewood and i make a decent living at 130K a year. 6 kids bh. Due to the food costs I can no longer make ends meet. I am simply living on my credit cards at this point.

  30. About time someone opened their mouth. Everyone is busy with shtusim at conventions and asifos and banning chumashim, while we can’t afford to buy basic food for our families.

    Where is the Agudah? Where are the organizations who are taking care of our issues?

  31. This is far from a conspiracy, I personally heard from a major player in the food industry (non kosher food) that the price gauging that’s going on in the kosher food industry has nothing to do with inflation but it’s companies taking advantage of us consumers. He said they are overcharging in the disguise of inflation. He plans on exposing them in a major fashion.

  32. Part of the issue is our lifestyle VS. non Jewish lifestyle.

    Any typical kosher store owner will probably be paying full tuition for 6-8 children. Plus 10 (or more) years of full support to his sons-in-laws. Camps and many other expenses of our lifestyles.

    All these (nothing to do with food items) expenses get added into the price of your chicken. Just as the cost of rent, workers, insurance, advertising, shipping, etc all get added to the original cost of the chicken. But in our lifestyles, with added expenses, there are more factors that must be included in the price of the chicken.

    Hence crazy pricing…

  33. Part of it is our fault. We let the store owners get away easily by going along with it. For staple items, we started to go to chain places like Shoprite. For meat, we’ll go to a Heimishe store.

  34. Eggs!!!!
    Not sure what is so complicated. Jewish stores go through MORE eggs than any Walmart. If eggs are $3 in Walmart and $5-6 in Heimish stores, it doesn’t take much to see that our stores are jacking up the prices to take advantage of the inflation.

  35. To zaidy78 and to all those who think we are obligated to support kosher supermarkets or think that their having “Jewish lifestyles” justifies higher prices for the rest of us:

    Consider that except for the owner and possibly a manager, kosher stores (at least in Monsey) employ almost exclusively undocumented non-Jewish workers (at low salaries and with no benefits or protections), while Shoprite, etc all have legal employees who are members of a union, are paid higher salaries, and have employee benefits.

  36. I stopped buying chalav yisroe a long time ago because of the outrageous pricing. Sorry if no one agrees with my reliance on R’ Moshe’s kula.

  37. Regarding the extra costs of chalav yisroel, here are some guesstimate numbers, and you can judge for yourself how these numbers would justify the price differential.

    Estimated herd size on farms that produce chalav yisroel: 500
    Average gallons per day produced per cow: 6
    Average gallons produced per day: 500 x 6 = 3000
    Retail price difference between regular milk and chalav yisroel per gallon: $4.
    Retail price differential for a single day’s chalav yisroel production – 3,000 x 4 = $12,000
    Cost of hashgacha per day per farm: A fraction of $12,000.
    Difference between $12,000 and actual cost of hashgacha for one day’s supply = Profit beyond the profit also made by sellers of regular milk.
    Daily cost for hashgacha: ?? (Presumably a lot less than $12,000 per day)

  38. Regarding the extra costs of chalav yisroel, here are some guesstimate numbers, and you can judge for yourself how these numbers would justify the price differential.

    Estimated herd size on farms that produce chalav yisroel: 500
    Average gallons per day produced per cow: 6
    Average gallons produced per day: 500 x 6 = 3000
    Retail price difference between regular milk and chalav yisroel per gallon: $4.
    Retail price differential for a single day’s chalav yisroel production – 3,000 x 4 = $12,000
    Cost of hashgacha per day per farm: A fraction of $12,000.

    $12,000 differential – actual cost of hashgacha for one day’s supply = Profit beyond the profit also made by sellers of regular milk.
    The above does not take into account milk used for cheese and other dairy products, also at significantly higher cost to the consumer.

  39. We the consumers are a bunch of stupid sheep being led to the laughter of these greedy supermarket owners.

    They are robbing us blind along with the esrog sochrim, the highway robbery also known at “shmura matzah”.

    And I agree with an earlier commentor. Where are our leaders? Why are we busy having speeches and drashos of all sorts. FOOD FOOD FOOD FOOD FOOD. This is how we survive. Nothing is mor important.


  40. Why don’t we all chip in and put together a half a million dollar gift to any high level person at the mafia controlling industry and have him be our WikiLeaks and tell us how this scam is going down.

    Lets start a chesed fund and all donate 2 bucks. i bet we have a half a mil in a few hours. everyone is fed up

  41. 100% price fixing. Where is the FBI?

    Shut the stores all down.

    see what they charge for take out? A pound of cole slaw? HIGHWAY ROBBERY AT ITS FINEST!

  42. My husband and I used most of our savings in the past two years due to nothing more than the food expense. We make a normal living, live within our means, and haven’t taken a vacation in many years. We pay our bills, give our maser money and scratch it together raising our healthy children. We are grateful to hashem. But something is got to happen with the food costs, or I will be forced to start taking food from organizations, which I do not to want to do.

    It got so bad after sukkos, that when we knew we had a kiddush on shabbos morning, we would all make sure to eat at the kiddush so we didnt have to make chulent which costs a fortune now.

  43. As for my comment above, regarding chalav yisroel production costs, I welcome the input from any mashgichim to provide better data as to how many cows per chalav yisroel farm (I’d guess it’s more than 500 head and the differential between production cost and selling cost is even higher than the $12,000 number I guesses at).
    I also realize that there may be some higher handling costs for chalav yisroel, but we’d need numbers to see how that would work out to anything near an added $4 per gallon.

  44. About 20 years ago, a new kosher grocery store opened up in the small neighborhood where I was living. They were charging $2.50 a box for frozen MealMart Breaded Chicken and Turkey Cutlets (or maybe it was chicken nuggets?). I was thrilled, because at that time stores everywhere else were charging $8 a box. After a few months, I came in and saw the price had been raised to $8. I asked the store manager/owner about it, and he said, “I found out the other stores are charging $8, so that’s what I’m charging.”

    What this tells me is that a price of $2.50 was profitable enough back then for him to set that as the price without knowing what others charge, but when he found out he could charge more, he did.

    Now, I’ve been around YWN long enough to know that there will be people here who question my story, asking how didn’t he know? Didn’t he shop for food himself to know the market price? The answer is I have no idea why he didn’t know. Maybe he came from Israel. I can’t know his life history to know why he didn’t know the market price of this product. The story I told above is true.

    The bottom line is that after this incident I realized that the profit margins on kosher food are way higher than necessary.