SEATTLE -- A department for full-service kosher meat sliced on the spot by a full-time kosher butcher has been added to Quality Food Centers' meat department in the University Village neighborhood here.
Since the kosher butcher arrived in mid-August, "We are finding increases in meat across the board," said John Hennessy, a meat manager, who declined to give specific sales figures.
QFC's corporate headquarters in Bellevue, Wash., was not able to provide further information.
Amir Ben-Meir, QFC's kosher butcher, said that once the kosher department was up and running at full speed -- which he estimated could be about the end of September -- it "should do $8,000 to $10,000 a week."
Ben-Meir also noted, "The whole meat department does close to $100,000, so we are hoping for 10%."
The meat department's Hennessy said that, as of early August, less than 5% of his total meat sales came from kosher products and he shared Ben-Meir's hopes to raise that to 10%.
Ben-Meir, the kosher butcher, had been providing QFC with self-service kosher meat since November 1996.
"I was working out of a corporate office for nine months, where I was cutting meat for the Rainier, Mercer and University Village [locations]," explained Ben-Meir.
"The [corporate offices] decided to carry kosher meat because the community requested it," he added. "People wanted more supermarket-style meat instead of going to a kosher butcher."
The University Village location is the only QFC thus far to feature an in-house kosher butcher, according to Hennessy. He said that the kosher customers were grateful to have the kosher section in the store and called this location "the store that can best cater to that community."
Ben-Meir said there were no plans to put full-service kosher sections in other locations at this time.
The kosher section features chicken, turkey, lamb, veal and beef. New items, according to Ben-Meir, are slated to include "ground turkey and chicken and we are going to have sliced deli meats."
Beef and chicken have been very popular, according to Ben-Meir, and Hennessy said "sliced cooked meats like pastrami, bologna and oven-roasted turkey breast" have also sold well.
Prices for kosher meat "are the same as regular Choice meats," according to Hennessy. He said he thought that they could stay at that level and could even "be less than Coleman's."
Although Ben-Meir concurred that "I think that some of Coleman's stuff is more expensive than ours," he noted that certain kosher items, like beef and poultry, can cost about 20% more.
Ben-Meir works out of a separate kosher case and cutting room "which is on lock and key so no one can come with nonkosher meat on their apron," he explained.
Kosher meat and the utensils used to cut it cannot come into contact with nonkosher meat items or dairy products.
On Friday afternoon and Saturday, during the Sabbath, customers will still be able to buy kosher meat, but not special cuts from the full-service case.
Ads announcing the kosher department have been running in the local Jewish newspapers, according to Ben-Meir, and fliers publicizing it have been placed in local synagogues.
QFC is also advertising it on its "electronic reader board in the parking lot," according to the meat department's Hennessy.
While Hennessy said no kosher home-meal replacement was being offered as of late August, Ben-Meir noted QFC had plans to start making prepared foods as soon as "we get approval from the rabbis."
Some of Ben-Meir's kosher HMR plans include "stuffed turkey and Cornish hen, along with seasoned steak."