What is Eco Kosher and Why Does it Matter?

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I get a regular amount of guest post requests from various blogs/companies, and usually it’s pretty “meh.”  Form emails and spammy and all that.  Robots, maybe (not the cool kind, though).  

But the other week, I got a very pleasant email from Anabelle Harari, and I took notice.  She proposed a guest post on food and mesorah.  Sounded good to me!  After I checked out her fabulous blog, Local Belle, I knew I wanted to collaborate with her.  Her guest post is on a topic that I’ve become much more interested in lately – Eco-kosher.  Enjoy!  

~~~

mooo

happy to be eating some nice, green grass

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I’ve kept kosher my entire life (minus a brief stint in college when I became curious about seafood). I grew up in a secular Israeli home where we bought our kosher meat from Simon’s Jewish deli and wouldn’t even think about the fact that we were “missing out” on cheeseburgers.

It was only in college, after attending a Hazon food Conference, that I became familiar with the term “eco-kosher.” As I already considered myself an environmentalist, I was very interested in this idea of combining the laws of kashrut and extending them to think consciously about the entire process that food goes through in order to reach our plates.

The term “eco-kosher” was coined in the late 70’s by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, and became very popular in recent years, especially as issues surrounding environmental degradation and industrial factory farming become ever-more prevalent.

So what exactly is eco-kosher and why should we really care about it? As the laws of kashrut seem to be so restricting in the first place, why should we add more strain to the daily task of feeding ourselves?

At the core of the term eco-kosher is a way of extending the rules of kashrut to include concerns of industrial agriculture, global warming, animal rights and fair treatment of workers.  For example, two forward-thinking kosher meat companies in the U.S. – KOL foods and Grow & Behold pave the path towards sustainable, grass-fed, hormone-free, kosher meat.

Eco-Kosher is a new approach to kosher eating, and one that I feel should be taken seriously. If more Jews adopt the practice of eating eco-kosher products, it would only contribute to the betterment of the world. By supporting grass-fed meat that was free to roam (like cows naturally do) and slaughtered with the utmost respect and by kosher standards, we are combining two ideas, old and new, that are naturally cohesive.

Keeping kosher is already a way to elevate our food and the act of eating to a higher spiritual level; eating kosher food that was raised sustainably and ethically is a chance to enhance this beautiful mitzvah even more.

While I personally choose not to eat meat, I feel that as Jews, eating sustainably and ethically is aligned with a strong Jewish tradition of morality. This includes make conscientious choices about where our food comes from, how the person was treated who helped feed us as well as the impact had on the environment.

It’s a hard price to pay, but no one ever said being Jewish was easy!

Anabelle Harari is the community attaché for Birthright Israel Experts and writes an organic food blog called Local Belle. She sustains herself primarily on goat cheese, dark chocolate and kale. You can connect with her on twitter @thelocalbelle.

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11 thoughts on “What is Eco Kosher and Why Does it Matter?

  1. Are more kosher companies starting to provide meat that is grass fed, etc? That would be fabulous. Of course I live in Minneapolis and it’s not as easy to get stuff.

    • There are some, thankfully, yes – Kolfoods and Grow and Behold both do. There’s a butcher here in Bmore who provides half-grass half-grain fed (or so I hear, I haven’t checked it out myself yet).

      You could always start a buying club. I think that’s how a lot of midwestern cities defray shipping costs.

  2. Yes. When my sister-in-law showed me some information on factory farming, we stopped eating meat, dairy, and eggs. We are not 100% vegan, but almost. Lots of people here in Memphis keep chickens in their own backyard, and I’ve been trying to get eggs from them. (Truthfully, I’d rather not, because it’s high-cholesterol and I’ve learned to bake well without them.)

    • I love the backyard chicken coops. I heard that here in Bmore, you need an acre of land before you can do it. I need to look into that. I’d like to hear about your baking w/o eggs. We should talk!

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