“So long as Kosher consumers demand cheap meat, and a lot of it, the big slaughterhouses and packing plants will continue to churn it out as quickly and inexpensively as possible.” – Sue Fishkoff, “Kosher Nation: Why More and More of America’s Food Answers to a Higher Authority”
Four “meat-makers” at the Hazon East Coast Food Conference, held this past weekend, who spoke at the session “Pleased to Meat You: The Story of the Sustainable Meat Revolution,” are working hard to change that. Motivated by religious imperatives and their own personal food philosophies they share a common goal: to guarantee that the meat they distribute has been treated in the most natural way possible (organic and local feed, no hormones or antibiotics), has a small ecological footprint and is ritually slaughtered according to tradition.
Craig and Stacey Oshkello are small family farmers in New Hampshire who began raising meat for their family and a few friends without knowing much about the laws of kashrut. They quickly began to ask themselves how to bring the process of raising and slaughtering animals for food into the spiritual realm and studied with a rabbi to feel a deeper connection within this process.
Naftali Hanau, the founder of Grow and Behold, a small-scale kosher, organic meat provider in New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia, started his business in response to the inability to find this meat for himself. He said if I can’t get it elsewhere “why not do it myself?” This is no easy task and, after a few years of intense study and work, Hanau is now a certified shochet (kosher meat slaughterer) and runs a successful kosher meat company.
The final presenter, Devora Kimmelman-Block started KOL Foods, an online retailer of non-industrial, grass-raised kosher beef, lamb and poultry. She runs the whole company – from finding the farmers to being present in the slaughter house to organizing the delivery of this kosher, organic, sustainably raised meat. KOL Foods is a values-based business that considers all elements of the meat industry: the treatment of animals, farmers and workers in order to satisfy the ethical demands of their consumer.
The members of the Adamah farm based at Isabella Friedman, are also working to shift the approach to kosher meat within their own community. Shabbat lunch for the 200 conference participants modeled this with a goat and lentil cholent made with meat from 10 male goats which were born on the farm in the spring and slaughtered there recently, costing too much to sustain through the winter.
For many at the conference who feel passionately about how their meat is raised and where it comes from the experience of consuming meat that was raised, ritually slaughtered and prepared in an ancient fashion was meaningful. Aitan Mizrahi who raised the goats said emotionally over lunch, “this is the only meat I’ll eat.”