For the last month, I've been exploring, researching and talking with people in the Bay Area (and beyond) about sourcing 100% grass-fed, kosher beef for our community. And I'm pleased to let you know about two options to have this delicious meat on your table for the holidays and beyond.
First - a community grocery, Piazza's Fine Foods, is taking orders for both 100% grass-fed kosher beef AND empire kosher chicken.
I've been researching the health benefits and logistics of buying 100% grass fed, kosher beef. It's been a fun project, but now I'm at a decision point about whether to make this something I make happen (and invest) or just wait for someone else to do it. And that is dependent upon you - and our community's interest in 100% grass fed beef, kosher or not.
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To start from the beginning of my quest for locally grown, kosher grass fed beef, click here.
The key to locally raised, kosher grass fed beef is a kosher slaughter. And we don't have a kosher slaughterer (schohet) or slaughterhouse here in the Bay Area. And until we proven there's demand to sustain such an enterprise, we probably won't. But there is a schohet in Los Angeles who comes to the Bay Area frequently - and with minimal effort, he and I connected. Rabbi Kagan is educating me about kosher slaughter AND grass fed beef. Turns out, he's a strong advocate for grass fed beef.
He comes to the bay area because his son lives in Walnut Creek with the Walnut Creek Chabad House and his nephew is moving there. Rabbi Kagan is very committed to grass fed beef – for health and ethical reasons. So much so that he has a Los Angeles supply available.
I have a lot to learn from Rabbi Kagan – but most importantly, he is a large animal schohet (i.e. he doesn’t handle chickens) and he is working with a ranch up here as well. Hopefully we can partner to bring quality kosher grass fed beef to the community.
Rabbi Kagan did emphasize that you have to cook this beef differently – it’s very lean. That means marinating, slow cooking and paying attention on the grill or stove top. This beef is 30% leaner than conventional beef. Adding some healthy fats is sometimes desired.
Rabbi Kagan is exploring a line of pre-cooked products – rare roast beef you can cut and serve, for example. That’s an interesting extension – although my first priority is getting kosher local, grass fed beef in the hands of the Peninsula community at a competitive price. Then we'll do the pre-cooked to make it even better.
Rabbi Kagan has a problem - he cannot sell all the meat from his cows because Jewish law prohibits certain cuts - the round roast, for example. So he asks me do I have "goyim" - non-Jews - who would be interested? And I'm pretty sure that we have plenty of non-Jews who would be interested in this quality product.
Holding Ranch and Marin Sun Farms are both educating me on the combinations of cuts that our community would expect to get through this process. And we'll definitely get some kosher slaughtered, non-kosher grass fed meat - for those who want the product and don't care about the kashruth.
Are you interested? Let me know!
New Zealand is reconsidering it's ban on kosher slaughter. Rabbi Kagan and I spoke a bit about kosher and humane slaughter. In his opinion, and mine, a proper kosher slaughter is a very swift death with minimal pain. Dr. Temple Grandin, the leading authority on humane animal handling, also conveys this point of view.
The issue for many people rightly concerned about humane handling is that a kosher slaughter does not stun the animal. It does hold the animal comfortably upright in an ASPCA approved holding device. The schochet uses a razor sharp, large knife that severs the neck, jugular and trachea in one fast cut - otherwise it's not kosher. The animal bleeds out within 2-10 seconds. This method was developed out a respect for life as a gift from G-d.
Stunning is the preferred option for humane slaughter - but consumers should know that the stunning is often done with electricity and may require multiple jolts to render the animal "stunned". You cannot use gas to stun the animal as it permeates the meat.
I hope New Zealand permanently reverses it's ban and that consumers who value humane slaughter re-consider kosher.
Where to buy Kosher Beef on the Peninsula
Northern California is tough for a kosher Jew. There is one elegant kosher restaurant (Kitchen Table). There are two chains that stock some fresh and frozen kosher meat and poultry (Mollie Stones, Trader Joes). And there are some kosher butchers – in San Francisco and in Oakland – but neither of these are convenient for a working mom on the Peninsula. And NONE supply kosher grass fed beef. In fact, there is no information on how their beef is raised other than it’s healthy and kosher slaughtered.
About a year ago, a ranch in Colorado began marketing Glatt Kosher beef mail-order. Having tried other mail order in order to get more variety than rib-eye, stew and ground beef (the Mollie Stones with variety is in Palo Alto – and you have to go when the shipment arrives because everyone knows they have the only variety in cuts), I knew the shipping could be egregious. But Golden West Glatt deep freezers their cuts and ships 3-day ground. Their products are delicious. And the shipping is almost reasonable.
Learning about the feeding of my food
Naturally, the first email went to Golden West Glatt. After getting through the form letter response, their customer service rep and I had a 6 email exchange.
“We are proud of the taste and quality of our product.”
“You should be. It’s good. Is it 100% grass fed?”
“The cattle are grass fed until the last 4-6 weeks before harvesting.”
Pause. I didn’t know the impact of 4-6 weeks of non-grass feed. I needed someone who did know.
So I reached out to Professor Cindy Daley of the University of California-Chico. And she responded within an hour – amazing.
The lipid profile of the beef changes within 30 days of changing the feed. And she shared with me research she is publishing showing the lipid profiles of cattle with different feeds. Since this is not yet published, I won’t post here – but trust me, unless your cattle is being fed grass or rice bran/almond hulls, the beef is effectively ruined from a nutritional (specifically fats) perspective.
Back to Golden West.
“What’s the feed for those last 4-6 weeks? I’d really like to buy your product. By the way, here’s the impact of those last 4-6 weeks, by feed, from Professor Daley.”
“Working on it.”
And that’s where we stand with Golden West. Here’s what Mark’s Daily Apple says about these feeds - http://www.marksdailyapple.com/concentrated-animal-feeding-operations/
Seeing as Golden West isn’t grass fed (yet, but I’m hoping), I needed to widen my search.
Tune in tomorrow for my round up of all the options so far to solve this dilemma.