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Op-Ed: Kaporos Shouldn’t Break the Bank

The following op-ed was sent by an anonymous member of the Lubavitch community in Miami to CrownHeights.info, describing the hardship borne by a large family with copious Yomtov expenses when shelling out $23 for each Kapparos chicken, a phenomenon he describes as “price gouging”:

Ever hear the expression “Es Toig Oif Kapores”? What it means exactly, I do not know. However what I can tell you is that the fact that “Es Toig Oif Kapores” – makes it go up in value; tremendously!

I used to think it meant that something was worthless or barely usable. Well, times have changed, I guess. Nowadays ‘Kapores’ actually indicates great profitability. If you are on a tight budget and hear these words (“Es Toig Oif Kapores”) you may immediately realize that this is way over your head.

Consider this: a ready-to-eat Rotisserie Chicken in your typical kosher take-out costs how much? $10? $12? Let’s even say $15. It’s been delivered to the slaughter house, Shechted, cleaned, Salted & packaged. Then it was delivered to the wholesaler who delivered it to the store. Then it was prepared and is now on display for sale to the consumer. All of these entities along the way are certainly not doing their work for free. Yet BH the good tasting Kosher L’mehadrin chicken is fetching only 10 to 15 Dollars.

Now go to Kapores. A small miserable looking live chicken which came straight from the farm, and who knows if at the end will even end up in the mouth of a Yid, yet the charge is $23!!! Multiply that by 10+ and you’re looking at a good $250!

Does this make sense?! Is this right?!

I hear that in Crown Heights they are charging $5 or so per chicken. Granted the price in past years used to be a little higher and is now being subsidized by some generous people. This makes some sense. We are in the range of a reasonable price, yet enough to allow the Moisad and people involved to make some money. But Twenty Three Dollars?!

My problem is with the Tmimosdike Yid who takes the Shulchan Aruch literally and wants to fulfill the Minhag of Kapores in the “correct” manner. He has a large family KA”H and who knows, his wife may be expecting. Money for Yom Tov he doesn’t have. But he has no choice: a Mitzvah is a Mitzvah.

Is it really a Mitzvah or obligation to line some Yid’s pockets with money on the account of simple, poor, well meaning Jews? Does this make any sense? Shouldn’t Rabbonim just inform their people to take some money and give it to the poor? Does The Alter Rebbe not Pasken that it’s better not to eat fish (or meat) on Yom Tov if there’s price gouging?!

I’m in no way a Rav or authority to determine what’s the correct thing to do. I do however believe that I possess a few grams of common sense and this just makes no sense!

Before you jump to conclusion that my thoughts “Toigen Oif Kapores,” please take a few moments to think about the less fortunate and people who are going through hard times but are very sincere and innocent minded regarding their Mitzvos and “obligations.”

Is it okay to do Kapores on a cooked chicken? Because it literally comes out to BOGO! (Just kidding, I know the answer).

A Chasima & Gmar Chasima Tova L’shana Toiva Umesuka.

33 Comments

  • 1. i wish that was the price by us wrote:

    By us it’s $25 before Erev Yom Kippur,
    $45 on Erev Yom Kippur.

  • 2. Been there, done that wrote:

    I can remember those days. In an effort to do the mitzvah, have the children share the experience, but not break the bank; we shared chickens for the kids under bar or bas mitzvah.

    We lived out of town for a few years and the people who ran kappores only had a few chickens, for which we still paid plenty, and THEY recycled the chickens, so we figured…..

  • 4. dont understand wrote:

    every city in the world has chicken farms sometimes you might have to drive a bit to find one but if you do go to one you can get live chickens for a few dollars sometimes as low as $2

    you can purchase them directly from the farm and and bring it to the slaughter house to be cleaned

  • 5. I can afford it but... wrote:

    B-H I am in a position where I can afford to buy as many chickens as I want. But I’ve made it a point for a lot of reasons, we buy two chickens one male and one female We are a large family k”h and we all do it together my kids don’t mind one bit. The money that I save I give to charity somewhere else.

  • 6. GTA wrote:

    i have been involved in kapparos in the past, and i know that there is no price gouging at all; at least where they kasher the stuff.

    when you buy only 1000 -3000 chickens, the price will be much higher than if you are buying tens of thousands … that is where the shlach hoisen get a break.

    the shoichet in the shlacht hoise is getting paid a lot less then the shoichet at kapparos. i know that the place where i helped out in the past, the shochet was given over 3000 for shechting, and its a price you pay.

    advertising cost money. when you buy pallets of salt you will get it cheaper than if you are only buying 30-30 cases.

    a freezer truck/frezzer space cost money to rent.

    goyim to clean up after cost money.

    it cost money to hire people to kasher (especially if it includes a ticket.

    and lastly, anyone who asked to get chicken back (with some people taking 10-20 chickens home) were given it without even saying boo. As a matter of a fact, there were even some families who were well off that wanted fresh chicken and were given it as well.

    in summary, if you are doing a large scale operation all year round its much cheaper, vs. if you you are doing something once a year …

    if they are not kashered however, its ball tashchis and a major rip off …

    • 7. i Agree. BUT... wrote:

      I have a very hard time believing that the cost per a chicken is more then 10$ (that with paying the people that work, salt, cleaning crew..)

      So the question is still WHY so much $$ For 1 Chicken?

      And lets not forget the moisdois that are running this have free chicken all year round.

      That has to be saving them Tens of thousands of dollars.

    • 8. Milhouse wrote:

      You may have a hard time believing it, but it’s true. If you think otherwise, next year why don’t you do it yourself for $5 less, and drive this guy out of business while making a nice profit? I think if you look into it you’ll quickly find that the costs are much higher than you imagined.

    • 9. Lets do the math wrote:

      These are not hard numbers but I inflated them as to give the benefit of the doubt. If you disagree, please let me know where and why.
      Lets take the $23 a chicken number because I know by me it is $28 and in other places it is less so $23 sounds like a good average.
      $23×3000(people)= $69,000 Gross Sales
      On the high side they are paying $3 a chicken so their cost of goods is
      $3×3000= $9,000
      Lets see the expenses.
      Shoichet-$3,000
      Cleaners-$2,000 (that’s 10 people cleaning for 10 hours at $20 an hr.)
      Trucks rental/Gas-$2,000
      That’s just to shecht the chickens. To be honest, I disagree with adding the expenses for the kashering because you are not adding the income generated for selling the Kashered chickens. even if it is a moisod they are saving a ton of money on having food for the year. but for number inflation purposes lets add the salting expenses.
      Salt- $2,000
      Freezer rental-$2,000
      People to Kasher-$5,000 (this is completely ridiculous because most places get bochurim to do it for free with someone experienced supervising)

      I am choosing to ignore the fact that the commenter said an expense is people taking chickens, even 20 or 30 because the premise of the comment is that kashering is half the expense so people taking chickens home actually makes them more money because they don’t have to kasher it. and don’t tell me that they already have the people to kasher, they already bought the salt, they already rented a much larger freezer, because people taking hundreds of chickens home is obviously factored in before they bought salt etc. so here is the breakdown and you can decide for yourself if it is a rip off. (remember any normal person would get those expenses down by probably half.

      REVENUE
      Sales Revenue- $69,000

      COST OF SALES
      COGS- $9,000
      Freight- $2,000
      TOTAL COST OF SALES- $11,000

      GROSS PROFIT- $58,000

      EXPENSES
      Shoichet- $3,000
      Cleaners- $2,000
      Salt- $2,000
      Freezer- $2,000
      People to Kasher- $5,000
      TOTAL EXPENSES- $14,000

      NET INCOME- $44,000

      Seems like a pretty penny for one days work!

  • 10. Unnecesary... wrote:

    Well put! Growing up, my father, A Yerey Shamayim by every measure used to bring home just 2 chickens, a male and a female. All the boys (and occasionaly my mother) would share the male with my father and all the girls would share the female with my mother…

  • 11. I agree wrote:

    I live out of town and they place that does it here charges $16 a chicken. As the writer points out it can cost a frum family a couple of hundred dollars without blinking an eye.
    I spoke with the people that run the Kapporos a few years back when the raised the price from around $8 per chicken to what it is now and they told me that this is what it is.
    So now I do one Zachor for the boys and one Nekeviah for the girls. We are yotze the mitzvah we support the mossad and I dont break the bank

  • 12. you pay for where you live wrote:

    I am sorry but it is about how populated the area is and how motivated the community leaders are to help.
    In miami, we are a very small population of people looking for live chicken kaparos and therefore the cost vs demand must demand a higher price per chicken- even if it does seem like highway robbery. The same can be explained for cholov yisroel down here as well as pas yisroel and other hiddurim. All of these things are 15-40 percent higher than in NY. However in NYC the jewish frum population is growing by leaps and bounds so the cost vs demand is offset nicely so things like kaporos are not over priced. As well the community leaders look for sponsors to help defray the costs so everyone could do this, (Though i do remember the days when kaporos was 2 to 3 times higher than the $5 dollars it is now and people complained then as well.)Why this isn’t done down here you would have to ask the Head Rabbi’s or Shluchim.
    Bear in mind we also have an issue that the main person doing kaporos in south florida has a seemingly monopoly on this and i dont know how or why this is.

  • 13. Yukel wrote:

    Speak to a Rav. I did. In the past people used the same chicken multiple times, and people in the shtetl were probably holier than us. Use a fish., Raskin does and he is a holy man. There are options.
    Remember that institutions that organize this, have to pay for the chicken and other costs and the money goes to a good cause.

  • 15. NOT a "Mitzvah" wrote:

    The writer states “But he has no choice: a Mitzvah is a Mitzvah.” — Please understand that doing Kapores never was and never can be a “Mitzvah.” It is only a “Minhag,” and it is absolutely NOT obligatory, especially since indeed a great number of Torah authorities throughout the ages were and today remain completely against this practice. At any rate, to call it or consider it a “Mitzvah” is a clear violation of Torah Law.

  • 16. CHLEAKS.COM wrote:

    Don’t just complain, Do something about it.

    “A single act is better than a thousand groans.”
    (Hayom Yom 8 Adar 2)

    Arrange another Kapores and bring the price down.

    Any ‘Rabonim’ that come out against, should be asked where they were when the price was $23.

  • 17. crownheighter wrote:

    there is not money to do kapores Once a year,
    but there is money for every new and old eatery on Kingston Avenue and any other place……

    • 18. off the wall wrote:

      These people who the writer is talking about do not eat out etc.
      For one I could say I live in Florida and refuse to pay this amount for kaporos and have been doing it with money for many years now.

  • 19. mob wrote:

    It is simple supply and demand. If there is too much demand and not enough supply, the price rises. If there is too much supply and not enough demand the price drops. If you feel the price is too high, arrange a competing kapporos and sell at a lower price. Competition is always good for the consumer, even if it hurts the seller. The Miami kapporos busybody is likely making a couple thousand dollars profit. Compete with him and he will take less profit just to stay in business. Everyone else will be better off.

  • 20. if you can't afford chickens wrote:

    Then why not use money and use only the amount you can afford.

    At the end of the day being frum is always going to be expensive.

  • 21. kaporos in south florida wrote:

    The Rabbonim in South Florida do not care period about costs. They gladly pay the price unless they themselves need to find a farm, shochet, clean up …..take some money and be done with the whole kapores issue…..and by the way….those that are more mehader on a chicken don’t daven with a minyin, tzinus, tv….so it all balances out…..

  • 22. Milhouse wrote:

    In addition to what GTA wrote above, all of which is true, there’s another thing you have to bear in mind: those rotisserie chickens you see for sale in the supermarket are often on the last day when they can be sold, so the supermarket is making one last attempt to sell them before they have to throw them out. That’s one reason the price they charge for prepared chicken is often close to or lower than for raw chicken; they’re selling it a loss rather than risk making nothing at all.

  • 24. Truth wrote:

    Guys. There are no slaughterhouses in FL. The chickens come from Georgia. As South Florida is not purchasing thousands of chickens, they pay per piece, not by the pound as they do in NY or any slaughterhouse. Further, the shochtim get paid more in Florida. It’s not for the job, but per chicken. As there is no slaughterhouse, there no formal cleaning and kashering which is done at a premium. It’s about economies of scale. You do 25,000 chickens the cost drops dramatically versus 1,500 chickens. Many people over the years have tried to compete in the South Florida market but have ultimately realized the price is fair. A gmar chasima Tova to all.
    P.S. Until the subsidy, NY was $15 a chicken. Based on the economy of scale, most certainly their margins are much higher. Any way, if someone can figure out cheaper prices for this, esrogim, tefillin etc. Please do.

  • 25. Anonymous wrote:

    2 alternatives:
    1 use money – shoveh prutah per person in the house hold. or use fish – you can pick up a gold fish for a quarter a pop!
    2 – buy just 1 gender chicken per gender group in the family. that will only total 50 smackers!

    again, it’s a minhag. so chillax!
    gmar tov l’kulam!

  • 26. Interesting article wrote:

    #1 where do you live???

    As far as doing kapparos on a rotisserie chicken- I actually wonder if you can use money, then buy the cooked chicken and actually give it to a needy person?
    I don’t see why not.

    And I don’t see what’s wrong with using one zachar, one nekevah and done?

  • 27. Tzedoka? It depends where. wrote:

    Yes indeed in most places it’s going to the organization that arranges it.

    However in Miami it’s a private business… so this is not tzedoka by any means… and $23 is indeed gouging.

  • 28. kappores for $5 sound perfect wrote:

    i agree that anything over $5 is not cool.
    however your point that a chicken in the store costs $15 is only 2LB approx.a full chicken is more like 7LB so it dosnt work your case.

  • 29. 1 solution wrote:

    Don’t buy a chicken for each person. It’s ok to buy 1 male and 1 female for the whole family.

  • 30. Rabbi wrote:

    Accroding to the Alter Rebbe, one should not attend this practice if the price is high, unless the money is going to Tzedoko.
    He writes this regarding fish for Shabbos. See in detail there and in the Kuntres Achron. His reason applies even more so to Kaporos.

  • 31. Do it yourself!! wrote:

    stop whining. Its easy to kvetch! Im not down-playing the large expense for big families, but that has no connection to the cost of doing ‘business’! These are 2 separate things. I have done it on a small scale and walked out with a few hundred $$ in my pocket after 2 full days of work (one being on erev yom kippur!!!) plus the prep weeks in advance. The reason why there is monopoly is because even with the supposed huge profits, no one else wants to do it!!! Talk to your Rav if you are having a hard time. Maybe you can use maser money… Dont forget that the chicken is going to tzedaka!

  • 32. supply and demand= price wrote:

    in Brooklyn where there are many thousands of yids, it is enough to make a profit margin under or about $1 per UNIT (chicken)
    taking in to account 1)purchase price,2) labor costs, 3) transportation costs, 4) accounting for risk…..and then and only then taking a profit.

    figure 100,000 chickens sold at a proffit of 0.25/unit= $25,000… and at $1= $100,000.

    but in other places, for those who are charging what seems like an astronomical price, are actually making less money for their trouble…

    10,000 people to be serviced @ $1 = $25,000 … and at $5= $50,000

    1,000 people @ $10/ unit = $10,000 and at $20/unit= $20,000….

    for those who live in these far flung places it is part of an apparently un-calculated price of living there. you cant have your cake and eat it too.

    you can complain, or go in to the chicken business once a year for yourself and try and drive down the price.

    but dont complain…. you seem to love the luxary cars and suburban houses that capitalism affords, but complain over the most trivial nonsense.

    was it really better in russia?

    it is simple economics.

  • 33. supply and demand= price wrote:

    @9

    not exactly one days work,

    arrangement have to be made in advance,

    calculating how many chickens to purchase
    negotiating price.
    arranging locations and time, for pick up
    payment, delivery.
    hiring people, (what if a hire finds another job or is not available)
    advertisement.

    and remember
    expenses are paid out in advance,

    ie.. trucks
    labor costs
    gas.
    chickens
    salt
    advertisments
    permits (if necessary)

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