Two weeks ago I had the privilege of performing a shechita presentation for the excellent Ramah of the Rockies Summer camp for a thirds straight year. The kids that attend are always full of questions and so curious to understand where meat comes from. While most people do all they can to shield themselves and their kids from facing these questions I’ve found that children actually cope much more skillfully with animal slaughter than many of the adults I meet. But my short presentations can only do so much, to truly change the way society relates to animals we must begin exposing our children to the realities of meat production much sooner and more regularly.
Despite what many people believe, according to Jewish law all kosher animal butts are perfectly permissible to eat . The myth of hindquarters being treif (not kosher) is pervasive in both the Jewish and non-Jewish world. This was well demonstrated when Hebrew national changed its famous slogan from “We answer to a higher authority” to the very tongue and cheek “No ifs ands or butts”. Hebrew National further helped in the public’s miseducation by publicizing a now well known graphic of a cow whose front half is marked as kosher while the back is said not to be. But this myth is being slowly transformed and several small kosher operations selling backdoor cuts are steadily increasing their business. I predict that with today’s increasingly sophisticated kosher consumer base this market will continue to grow and the opportunity to get a kosher filet mignon or T-bone steak will eventually become an everyday experience.
I’m very happy to finally present the Natural Kosher Beef Scorecard and hope my readers will find it useful in making better buying decisions. In this post I’ll be giving some general info to help you better understand the rating system and in the coming weeks I’ll give in depth reviews of the competing brands: KOL Foods, Grow and Behold (G&B), Teva and Tevya’s Ranch. Instead of using stars I’ve chosen the more apropos option of a brisket rating system. It ranges from a “Terrible 1-brisket” rating all the way to the “Perfect 5-Briskets (1st Cut)” ranking. The scorecard also contains two separate reports. The 1st of these presents company info and the overall brisket rating, the 2nd reveals the scores received in each of the different categories. Also the card can now be found anytime by clicking on the Beef Scorecard tab found above. Please note that the scorecard is based on questions asked to company reps as well as my industry knowledge and that the ratings constitute my best personal assessment of the information I’m able to obtain. Much of the design and inspiration for this has come from the Cornucopia Institute’s organic egg and dairy scorecards and I’d encourage those of you who enjoy this post to also visit their site. If you’d like to know more about other brands of kosher beef please contact me and I’ll consider adding them to the scorecard.
After the 2009 scandal where Rubashkins, the world’s largest glatt kosher slaughterhouse at the time, was found to be mistreating workers and animals while seriously violating the laws of kashrut, consumers put out a call for more ethical kosher meat choices. In the last few years four companies have answered this call by putting out six different natural beef products. Of these companies two, “Grow and Behold” and “KOL Foods”, are small start ups that are only available online and espouse higher standards as their #1 selling point, with prices that reflect these claims. The other two companies, “Teva Meats” and “Tevya's Ranch”, are parts of larger corporations and can be purchased in supermarkets throughout the country. These bigger players promote themselves as natural or healthy and offer a lower price point, but do not espouse their meat to be ultra-ethical. Are these small niche companies better? Is it worth it to spend the extra money on any of these brands? I’ve been getting questions like this more and more, so I've decided to put my expertise to work. I'm going to compare and rate these companies so you can know which beef comes out on top.
Please note that my reviews will focus mainly on animal welfare but worker treatment and sustainability will be considered as well. I wont be rating any poultry or lamb in this series, just beef. I'll also be splitting up the products into 2 categories, grass-fed and grain finished. I want to make sure that people understand what the differences are between them so I'm including this explanation of the different practices below. Also please note that my reviews, explanations and term usage only applies to beef cattle and not dairy cows which differ greatly.
All cows raised for meat start out on pasture only consuming grass but after about one year they split up and usually take one of three very different paths.
There are lots of animals that kosher omnivores don’t eat but the most famous of them all is the pig. Most people assume that pigs aren’t kosher because of health and hygienic reasons but chicken, a famously kosher creature, causes much more sickness to humans than pork,* so what’s the real reason behind this practice? Well..... that is a question you’ll need to save for God, because nobody knows the ultimate answer to it, but I can at least tell you what reasons I find most appealing.
About the blog:
Welcome to The Kosher Omnivore's Quest! My old blog on kosher slaughter, kosher meat, and animal welfare. For new content check out my new website, The Kosher Cut™. There you'll find: blog posts about shechita and related topics, educational slaughter presentations, kosher slaughter training, and a selection of high quality professional kosher slaughter equipment.