Flood-ravaged kosher meat producers in rural Pennsylvania, besieged by rising rivers, were frantically calling kosher slaughterer Naftali Hanau, owner of Grow and Behold Foods, even as he assured JTNews that the fledgling company’s first shipment of kosher meats will be delivered to Seattle customers on Sept. 26 in time for the High Holidays.
More than 20 families expressed interest in the product at Congregation Beth Shalom in the Northend of the city, as well as a handful of families in the Seward Park neighborhood. Customers are scheduled to receive antibiotic-free, hormone-free, all natural, pasture-raised, Orthodox Union-certified kosher beef, veal, lamb, and poultry.
Grow and Behold Foods prefers to deliver their product to a location with a walk-in freezer and a loading area, but they will ship their popular cuts, including brisket, liver, spare ribs, hot dogs, and more, to any location.
“Our products are retail-ready,” said Hanau, a Rochester, N.Y.-raised and Crown Heights-trained ritual slaughterer and professional horticulturist with experience in environmentally safe farming methods. “Everything is fully sealed, with all the proper kosher symbols.”
Guided by the Orthodox Union’s strict kashrut standards and committed to achieving the highest organic and environmental practices in meat production today, the company that he and his wife Anna have meticulously created is hoping to expand further in the West.
“If this works out well,” said Hanau, “we hope to do this four times a year around Rosh Hashanah, Thanksgiving, Passover, and then, maybe, July 4. If there is a demand for more frequent deliveries, we will do it.”
Individuals and families must order directly through the company’s website and then customers must decide where to pick up their meat.
Grow and Behold gives customers an incentive to create “buying clubs,” which requires a 100-pound minimum and offers dramatic price breaks at each level to groups that order 175 lbs., 250 lbs., or 250 lbs. or more.
Already, there are several shipment locations Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Beth Shalom’s Rabbi Jill Borodin said the congregation is very excited about this new kosher meat option in the community because it’s in line with their commitment to buy and eat foods that are produced with humane and ethical values — what they see as core Jewish values.
“All of our coffee and tea at the synagogue is fair trade,” Borodin told JTNews. “We started an organic garden behind our synagogue two years ago and every week we donate vegetables that we grow to the Jewish Family Services Food Bank. We don’t have garbage. It’s all yard waste.”
The CBS order came in at well over the minimum amount.
According to Borodin, Temple Beth Am, the Kavana Cooperative, and Herzl-Ner Tamid Conservative Congregation are all looking into forming meat-buying groups at their sites.
It’s somewhat of a luxury to be able to get pasture-raised kosher meat in Washington because kosher slaughtering requires much more than a shochet, or ritual slaughterer, to produce kosher meat.
Add to that the low number of kosher consumers on the West Coast, in general, and it’s easy to see that kosher eaters in the Seattle-area may really take to this food-buying opportunity.
“You need a USDA facility,” Hanau said, “and you need additional supervision, like someone from the Orthodox Union. You also need a certain amount of scale to make this work. When we do beef production, we slaughter between 15 and 25 heads at a time.”
Recently, several legal cases brought by animal rights groups worldwide may have also tarnished public attitudes toward the kosher method of slaughter.
In Washington, a suit brought by Pasado’s Safe Haven in which it claimed that the religious exemption was unfair, was struck down by a three-judge panel in an appellate court, which decided that both parts of the law must stand.
Secular slaughter uses a captive bolt stunner or a shotgun to render an animal senseless before severing its carotid artery. Kosher slaughter and Islamic halal slaughter both reject the stunning process. The Orthodox Union claims that kosher ritual slaughter is quick and virtually pain-free.
“There have been attacks on shechitah [slaughter] in Holland, New Zealand, and Nordic countries have even banned it,” said Hanau. “Stunning and kosher slaughter do not go together. In kosher law, animals have to be in full and perfect health before they are slaughtered.”
Secular meat processing plants and kosher plants outside the U.S., Hanau said, often cuff and drag animals to slaughter, said Hanau. Slaughtering an animal in a vertical position requires another sizeable investment in equipment.
“We only use slaughter houses where we can slaughter the beef in an upright manner,” added Hanau. “Those restraint systems are often $20,000 to $30,000 minimum and often much more when it comes to installing it.”
Currently, Grow and Behold Foods ships their products all over the Northeast and to the central U.S., but Hanau has a larger vision.
“We would love to have buying clubs set up all over the country.”