Texas Jewish Post (Fort Worth, Tex.), Vol. 61, No. 50, Ed. 1 Thursday, December 13, 2007 Page: 2 of 31
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2 I December 13,2007 I News
TEXAS JEWISH POST $ SINCE 1947
Eco-kashrut supporters turn their
attention to kosher meat
By Sue Fishkoff
SAN FRANCISCO (JTA) — This
Thanksgiving, New Yorker Linda
Lantos didn't have to compromise
her Jewish or ecological values:
She served free-range, organic,
non-genetically engineered turkey
that was also kosher.
"In the last few years it's be-
come important to me to find
meat that's organic and kosher,
and that's hard," says the 27-year-
old chef and nutrition teacher, who
has kept kosher since childhood.
The two turkeys Lantos bought
this month from Kosher Con-
science, a year-old kosher meat
cooperative that promotes sus-
tainable agriculture and humane
slaughter methods, weren't cheap.
It means a great deaf
But that doesn't bother her.
"I'd rather eat meat less fre-
quently and know where it comes
from," she says. "Frankly, meat is
too cheap. It's a living thing and
should be valued more highly."
For 30 years the eco-kashrut
movement has promoted back-
to-the-land values of sustainable
agriculture, organics and local,
seasonal farming. Now a growing
number of those Jewish foodies
are trying to apply the same values
to their meat, demanding that the
animals be raised and slaughtered
in an ethical manner.
"If I'm going to eat meat, I have
to do everything possible to make
sure the process is as humane as
possible," says Kosher Conscience
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founder Simon Feil.
Caring for animals is d eeply in-
grained in Jewish law. The Torah
provides for tza'ar ba'alei chayim,
the need to protect animals from
unnecessary pain. That's why
kosher slaughter must be done by
an observant, trained shochet, or
ritual slaughterer, who uses an ex-
tremely sharp knife to kill the ani-
mal as painlessly as possible, with
one cut across the jugular vein.
Many Jews believe that because
of this extra religious concern, the
kosher meat industry is exempt
from the more egregious practices
ofnon-kosher slaughterhouses. But
controversies last year at Agripro-
cessors, the nation's largest kosher
slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa,
buried that myth amid media sto-
ries alleging sloppy, cruel killing
methods and underpaid, badly
The Agriprocessors case was a
Jewish wake-up call.
It spurred the Conservative
movement to start developing a
hechsher tzedek, a certificate given
to food produced according to cer-
tain standards of workers' rights
and environmental concerns. The
certificate was announced at the
Conservative movement's recent
biennial in Orlando, Fla.
It inspired Feil, a Brooklyn-
based actor, to procure, slaugh-
ter and process 24 turkeys using
humane practices last month. He
found buyers among young New
York Jews, and dropped off the
turkeys two days before Thanks-
giving at an Orthodox synagogue
on the Upper West Side of Man-
It put meat on the agenda of last
year's food conference sponsored
by Hazon, a nonprofit dedicated
to Jewish environmentalism and
Much of the impetus for the
socially just kashrut movement
comes from Conservative circles,
but there's interest within Reform
Judaism as well. A committee of
Reform rabbis is working on stan-
dards for socially just food pro-
duction along the same lines as
the Conservative hechsher tzedek
Gersh Lazerow, a fourth-year
rabbinical student at the Reform
movement's Hebrew Union Col-
lege-Jewish Institute of Religion
in New York, hopes to become a
shochet to combine his liberal val-
ues with Jewish tradition.
"I think kashrut has value to
New Yorker Linda Lantos served one of Simon Feil's organic, pasture-raised,
kosher, humanely slaughtered heritage-breed turkeys at her Thanksgiving
table this year — with a miso and maple glaze.
modern progressive Jewish prac-
tice," he says.
"A lot of people are faced with
the decision, ethics or kashrut,"
says Devora Kimelman-Block of
Washington, a Hazon activist and
longtime supporter of sustainable
agriculture. "Or they just decide to
Kimelman-Block eats meat, but
had cut down in recent years.
"I don't feel it's ethically a prob-
lem to eat meat," she says, "but I
have a problem with the unethical
raising and processing of meat."
Last year she decided to enter
the business herself. Kimelman-
Block says she "knew nothing"
about the kosher meat industry
when she started.
Doing it all herself, from find-
ing a local farmer with pasture-
raised cows, to negotiating with a
shochet, to lining up buyers from
14 area synagogues, was a daunt-
ing task. But she wanted to teach
her daughters to respect the food
they ate and understand the Jewish
values underlying its production.
"The closer you are to your
food, the more holy it is," Kimel-
It's easy to be pious when you're
talking about fruit, but most peo-
ple would rather not think about
where their steak comes from.
That's true particularly in eco-
kashrut circles, which are domi-
nated by vegetarians.
In one session at last year's
Hazon conference, the group's
executive director, Nigel Savage,
asked audience members to raise
their hands if they ate meat but
would not do so if they had to kill
it themselves. A "good number"
raised their hands, he recalls.
Then he asked those who were
vegetarian to raise their hands if
they would eat meat they killed
themselves — and a different set
of hands went up.
Savage found the second re-
sponse more telling. He says those
people were indicating that tak-
ing responsibility for killing the
animal one eats, making sure it is
done humanely and with respect,
is the only way to eat meat with
That's why Hazon performed
ritual slaughter on three goats at
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Wisch, Rene. Texas Jewish Post (Fort Worth, Tex.), Vol. 61, No. 50, Ed. 1 Thursday, December 13, 2007, newspaper, December 13, 2007; Fort Worth, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth188168/m1/2/: accessed October 19, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; .