Grow and Behold

A New Line of Kosher Chicken Launches A Conversation Around Jewish Food Ethics

The Meat We Eat: With his company, Grow and Behold Foods, Naftali Hanau is filling an unex- pected gap in the kosher food market left by the halt in production at Agriprocessors.
The Meat We Eat: With his company, Grow and Behold Foods, Naftali Hanau is filling an unex- pected gap in the kosher food market left by the halt in production at Agriprocessors.

By Leah Koenig

Published June 28, 2010, issue of July 09, 2010.
  • Print
  • Share Share

When Naftali Hanau graduated from New York University with an economics degree, he left prepared for a career in banking or investing. But the Rochester, N.Y., native chose a different path: one that likely includes more feathers and trucks than those of his fellow alumni.

This July, Hanau’s company, Grow and Behold Foods, will launch a line of kosher, pasture-raised chicken to be sold in New York and New Jersey; beef is slated to be available shortly thereafter. Customers can purchase fresh whole chickens and parts through the company’s website, and either pick them up at predetermined buying club locations or schedule a home delivery in select areas.

The chickens, which are produced for the company under Orthodox Union certification, are raised on family farms and eat a diet of grasses, bugs and small amounts of genetically modified organism-free feed. As a result, their meat is juicy and flavorful. “When my savta [grandmother] Sara tried pastured chicken, she said: ‘It tastes like spring chicken. I haven’t had this since I was a child in Poland,’” Hanau said. Fittingly, the company’s chicken line is named Sara’s Spring Chicken.

Grow and Behold is an outgrowth of the movement of American Jews who view Jewish tradition as a wellspring of food-related values. Led by such organizations as Hazon and the Jewish Farm School, and by initiatives like the Magen Tzedek ethical certification, the movement has motivated a committed core of people who seek food that is both traditionally kosher and sustainably produced.

In 2008, the widely publicized immigration raid of the Agriprocessors kosher meat processing plant (whose executive, Sholom Rubashkin, was recently sentenced to 27 years in federal prison) launched the conversation around Jewish food ethics into the mainstream. The incident also brought Agriprocessors’ production to a halt, leaving an unexpected gap in the market. “Agriprocessors had been supplying a significant percentage [an estimated 50% to 70%] of kosher meat in America,” Hanau said. “Their absence allowed for a proliferation of smaller brands.”

Among these brands is a handful of companies and buying clubs — like KOL Foods in Washington, D.C.; New York’s Mitzvah Meat and Red Heifer Farm; LoKo Meat in Boston (which enlists Hanau as the shochet, or ritual slaughterer), and now Grow and Behold — offering a sustainable alternative to industrial kosher meat. Together they represent only a fraction of the overall industry, but they point to a shifting consumer landscape.

“Just a few years ago, people thought this type of venture was insane,” LoKo co-founder Marion Menzin said. “Now they are tuning in.”

The shift is equally apparent on the national scale. “There has been particular growth within the industry for niche markets like organic and natural beef,” said Rabbi Seth Mandel, a rabbinic coordinator at the OU and an adviser to Hanau. “Many consumers will still buy meat based on price alone, but around the country you can see a change.”

As he was growing up in an Orthodox household with the “butcher just around the corner,” eating kosher meat was a given for Hanau. It was not until he learned about factory farms, feedlots, antibiotic use and other practices common to the conventional meat industry that he began to re-examine his eating habits.

“At first I was outraged and thought, ‘How could this be kosher?” he said. “Then I realized it was because kashrut dictates how an animal is killed and processed, not how it is raised. But I still did not want to eat it.”

An alumnus of the Adamah Jewish farming fellowship and a graduate of professional horticulture school, Hanau had spent several years working on farms. He and his wife, Anna (a fellow alumna and former Adamah staff member), talked about starting an organic farm, but realized they could potentially make a bigger impact with meat. “Farmers’ markets and CSAs [community supported agriculture] are growing steadily, but if you keep kosher and want to eat good meat, there is a real lack of options,” she said.

Two years ago, Hanau began training as a shochet under the guidance of Rabbi Yehuda Benchemhoun of Brooklyn. Although he is now certified, he will not personally shecht for Grow and Behold. Still, his knowledge of shechita (ritual slaughter) can only strengthen communications with his staff. Similarly, Hanau’s experience raising animals on small farms informs his business practices. “[Shechita impacts] only the last few minutes of an animal’s life,” he said. So while ensuring a humane slaughter is important, Hanau believes that the rest of the process — how the animal is raised, fed and transported — may have a greater proportional impact on its quality of life.

Like all new business ventures, especially ones that exist at the intersection of two niche markets, the future of ethical kosher meat is uncertain. But the efforts that Hanau has taken to personally master every part of the production process is what arguably sets apart Grow and Behold from similar initiatives. “I love to feed people, and see potential good to do in what I feel is a broken system,” he said. “Compared to the big companies, I’m still a novice, but I am learning this business from the ground up.”

Naf’s BBQ Chicken

Serves 4–6

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 pounds Sara’s Spring Chicken wings (or other parts)
1⁄3 cup ketchup
1⁄3 cup mustard
1⁄3 cup honey
4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 1⁄2 tablespoons curry powder
1 tablespoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 ounces whiskey (optional)

  1. Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Add onion, and sauté until caramelized, 10-12 minutes.

  2. Place chicken in a plastic bag or Tupperware container large enough to comfortably hold the pieces. Add onions and remaining ingredients; seal and shake to evenly coat the chicken. Marinate for 30 minutes, or overnight in the refrigerator.

  3. Light coals (Naf recommends natural hardwood charcoal) and bank along sides of the grill. Arrange chicken in center of the grill (not directly above the coals); cover and grill for 10–30 minutes, depending on size of pieces. Uncover and turn chicken; recover and cook an additional 5–15 minutes until desired internal temperature is reached.

Leah Koenig writes a monthly column for the Forward on food and culinary trends. Contact her at

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels.
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.