My daughter asked to try chicken recently at a Shabbat dinner at Chabad in Phnom Penh. Since then, I have been ardently searching for an ethical kosher chicken choice.
I am searching for a chicken that meets my kosher standards, my ethical ideals about animal welfare and my health and taste requirements. I don’t know much about kosher chicken because I am vegan and follow a plant based diet. This approach works for me but my husband and daughter are more food flexible.
If I’m going to serve chicken to my family, my guidelines are:
Kosher: the chicken must be kosher;
Ethical: the chicken must be raised in a way that meets my ethical standards: no hormones, no systematic antibiotics, no overcrowding;
Healthy Genetics: the chicken is genetically healthy (i.e. not a genetic hybrid): slow growth, good immune system and bred to live a healthy outdoor life;
Reductionist Philosophy: If I serve chicken to my family, I serve it infrequently and in small portions for their health and the health of our planet.
I believe that humans have an obligation to give the animals they ea ta good life and a humane death. I am very concerned about the chicken industry, and how its animals are raised and treated.
Buying, cooking, and serving the modern average american chicken is not an option for me. Most chickens available today in the USA, and indeed the world, are genetic hybrids which have been bred to grow unnaturally fast. This unbalanced genetic makeup leads to poor animal health and significant animal suffering. It also leads to chicken that’s lacking in nutrition and flavor.
I recently started working as the Kosher Meat and Animal Welfare Specialist for an amazing new organization called The Jewish Initiative for Animals (JIFA for short), which is a project of Farm Forward. My central job at JIFA is to get more ethical, high welfare meat back into the hands of kosher consumers. I’ve recently reached a big milestone:kosher heritage chicken is now available in 48 American states for the first time in 50 years!
Following receipt of his email, I did a bit of googling to learn about Frank Reese and heritage chickens.
It turns out Frank Reese’s chickens and turkeys are famous in their own right, having been featured in Vogue and on the Martha Stewart show.
It is clear that heritage chickens are much healthier, and therefore heritage kosher chicken meat is a healthier choice for our families. Below is comparison between heritage chickens and hybrid chickens:
The price of kosher heritage chicken (several times more expensive than the cost of a hybrid chicken) reflects the actual price of raising a chicken humanely and paying farmers and workers a fair wage. Unfortunately, inexpensive chicken allows, indeed trains, consumers to eat larger quantities of meat more often.
Better to eat much smaller quantities of higher quality and ethically produced animal products less often.
I know that I will keep eating a vegan plant based diet because it aligns with my values and makes me feel well. However, I know that veganism does not appeal to everybody.
If you choose to purchase and eat chicken, you also can choose to honor our Jewish values of compassion for animals. Today, kosher heritage chicken is a ethically produced kosher chicken choice for our homes and synagogues.
Your turn: What appeals to you most about kosher heritage chicken?
Good to know details about purchasing and preparing heritage kosher chicken
P.S. Not sure what makes food “kosher”? It is pretty confusing! Start by learning what makes food “kosher” right here. If you want an introduction to kosher slaughter, read this first.
(This post is sponsored by the The Jewish Initiative for Animals. Their mission to support innovative programs to turn Jewish values of compassion for animals into action. Thank you for supporting the projects that support Jewish Food Hero.)