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From Heckscher Tzedek to Bible Belt Meat

I knew something was up when my parents switched butchers and started getting their meat from the Amish. As people increasingly raise their food consciousness–realizing that the choices we make about the food we consume deeply affects the environment–the demand for eco-friendly, high quality, and preferably local products is also on the rise. My parents, like many of their baby boomer generation and their offspring, relish high quality meals, but are also concerned with the world around them.

For a few years now that demand has trickled into the kosher meat sector, as anyone who shops at Whole Foods knows. Despite the higher price, demand for kosher organic chickens is clearly evident, judging by the ransacked shelves at the Union Square store by Friday morning. Some Jewish leaders and organizations are now promoting the concept of Heckscher Tzedek, a Kosher Justice certification on foods.

But Jews aren't the only ones buying into this religiously-proscribed organic eco trend. Jewish food doyenne Joan Nathan wrote an article in today's New York Times which outlines a host of faith-based farms raising cattle and poultry across the country according to interpretations of biblical tracts and various religious precepts. According to one industry expert,

“Religious leaders have been giving dietary advice for decades and centuries, telling us to eat fish on Friday or to keep kosher in your home. What we are seeing now are contemporary concerns like the fair treatment of farm workers, humane treatment of animals and respect for the environment being integrated into the dietary advice given by the churches.”

As industrial kosher meat slaughterhouses continue to be mired in allegations including inadequate safeguards against mad cow disease, reports of fecal matter in the food-production area, and two recent high-risk recalls (an unusually high number), I'll be happily digging in to my Amish brisket this coming holiday season.

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