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Breaking Bad’s Chicken Not Kosher

OU says Los Pollos Hermanos isn’t kosher, despite on-screen certification

Michael Orbach
August 19, 2013
Breaking Bad's Walter White in Los Pollos Hermanos(Breaking Bad wiki)
Breaking Bad's Walter White in Los Pollos Hermanos(Breaking Bad wiki)

Editor’s note: This post may contain spoilers for readers not up to date with Season 5 of AMC’s Breaking Bad.

Dedicated watchers of AMC’s brilliant Breaking Bad know that the show’s stereotypical Jewish lawyer Saul Goodman isn’t actually Jewish at all (he’s Irish, but adopted a Jewish moniker to help his lawyering business). In fact, the only appearance of the Chosen People inside the modern-day morality tale occurs on one of the canisters of the fry batter used for Los Pollos Hermanos, the fast food fried chicken chain belonging to the recently deceased Gustavo Fring (who used the chain as a transportation system for his slightly more profitable crystal meth business). The fry batter is apparently kosher, Redditors and commenters on the Replica Prop Forum have noted: the canister has the ubiquitous OU symbol of the not-for-profit Orthodox Union, the world’s largest kosher certifier.

“This is the first time we’ve certified a fictional product to the best of my knowledge,” said Mayer Fertig, chief communications officer for the Orthodox Union, who admitted that he had never seen the show. While most Orthodox shoppers are familiar with the OU label on final products, the majority of the products that the OU certifies as kosher are ingredients produced in 8,000 plants across the world.

AMC seemed perplexed by the question and wasn’t able to tell me how the OU symbol ended up on the show. (The batter is apparently pareve, containing neither meat or diary.) Scenes of the restaurant are shot in the non-kosher New Mexico fast food chain Twisters, which offers a meal of sausage, bacon, and cheese, a trifecta of trayf. And while we don’t know the reason for the symbol, most likely someone in the props department copied the label on a similar product.

The ingredient list for Los Pollos Hermanos batter doesn’t include shellfish or pork products that, needless to say, wouldn’t be certified as kosher. However, despite certification on some of its ingredients, the fictional restaurant chain would still not be considered kosher, according to Rabbi Menachem Genack, the CEO of the Orthodox Union’s Kosher division, who also admitted to not having seen or heard about the show.

“The chicken would have to be kosher,” Rabbi Genack explained. “Everything would have to be kosher inside the restaurant and there would need to be a maschgiach [a rabbinic supervisor] on site.”

Most likely, an operation with Los Pollos Hermanos’ shady side businesses wouldn’t feel compelled to have an extra person wandering around the hallways just to give the Orthodox Jews of New Mexico a place to eat. Ultimately, though, as the show’s final season unfolds over the next few months, the fact that Los Pollos Hermanos isn’t kosher is probably the least non-kosher thing we’ll see on screen.

Michael Orbach is a writer living in New York.