Ruling the Roost
Empire Kosher Poultry, is the world's largest kosher poultry processor. It was founded on the principle of producing premium-quality poultry while observing the Jewish dietary laws. Based in Central Pennsylvania – the company takes pride in the fact that 25% of its customers are not even Jewish, and purchase the products for non-religious reasons including quality, taste and health benefits.
As is becoming more and more evident, many consumers purchase kosher products, and specifically kosher poultry, due to the extra layer of scrutiny provided by Rabbinic inspection. Empire, along with other poultry processors, must follow the guidelines of the USDA, but additionally offers the mainstream consumer an extra layer of clarity—a Rabbinic inspector to check every chicken and turkey. “The Rabbinic inspectors check every chicken and turkey for abnormalities - such as broken bones or injuries - that might render it unacceptable… They also observe the cleansing and packaging of the poultry and ensure adherence to kashrus….Until the late 1970s, Empire purchased chickens and turkeys from growers throughout the Pennsylvania area. To standardize the quality and care of the birds, Empire purchased a number of farms and now maintains its own hatchery. ”
Joseph N. Katz, an Austrian immigrant, founded the company in 1938 in a garage in the Catskill town of Liberty, New York. He named the company after New York, the Empire state! Mr. Katz recognized the growing needs of the expanding Jewish population who discovered that, after moving to the “country” and suburbs, they couldn't find kosher foods.
In the 1950’s Katz was considered a pioneer in the kosher food industry because of his innovations with new freezer and vacuum-wrapping technologies. His family, including his son Murray, joined the expanding business and eventually relocated the processing plant to Mifflintown, PA. In 1981, Joseph Katz died and Murray Katz took over.
According to the company, “the decade that followed was a difficult one for Empire. Fire devastated the production line in 1986, burning the plant to the ground. Murray Katz was forced to take a hard look at the business before agreeing to spend nearly $20 million to rebuild. He saw the reconstruction as an opportunity to modernize production lines with new, faster equipment, capable of meeting Empire's growing needs.”
Empire's ownership then passed through a succession of financial institutions, and is now owned by an investor group, Palisades Associates, and headed by CEO Greg Rosenbaum.
And that brings us to today—
Welcome to KosherEye’s first annual Kosher Turkey Talk featuring Empire Kosher Poultry and Chef Laura Frankel.