December 20, 2007
Eco-kashrut supporters turn attention to kosher meat
(Page 2 - Previous Page)Kimelman-Block noted that in July she arranged for the slaughter of three cows, and the resultant 400 pounds of kosher meat sold in three weeks. But in October, she sold 1,200 pounds of meat from six cows -- $11,000 worth -- in less than a week.
"I could have sold as much as I had," she said. "People were knocking down the door."
Some people believe such a product will only serve a niche market. The process of raising and slaughtering the animals is difficult, and there is little interest from the Orthodox, who are the bulk of kosher meat consumers.
Joe Regenstein, a professor of food science at Cornell University, advises Jewish groups and the meat industry on issues of animal welfare. He is part of a two-person negotiating team that is working to develop guidelines for humane practices amenable to the two dozen or so fervently Orthodox rabbis who are responsible for the glatt kosher industry. A year ago, he said, the two sides reached consensus.
"They agreed to put it in writing," he said. "I am still waiting for that document."
Even if few people buy the meat, activists believe that growing publicity for the issue will have an impact on the kosher meat industry in general. That's what happened to Wise Organic Pastures, a kosher poultry and beef distributor in Brooklyn.
Rachel Wiesenfeld, who owns the company with her husband and son, said that as far as she's concerned, all kosher slaughter is humane. But when Whole Foods offered to carry their chickens if they were certified by Steritech, a company that verifies humane food production methods, the Wiesenfelds quickly agreed.
"Everyone was into this humane, humane, humane, so we went along with it, as well," she said.
The Wiesenfelds are ready to go to the same lengths with their kosher beef in the hopes that Whole Foods will start carrying that, too.
It's clear to Wiensenfeld that the market is growing, and she said it's not just Jews. A customer called her recently complaining about feathers on a Wise Organic chicken -- a customer who clearly is new to kashrut and doesn't know that kosher slaughter is done in cold water, which does not remove all the bird's feathers.
"Just boil a pot of water, put in the chicken for a few minutes," she advised, "and those feathers come right out."
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