Kosher, and Organic, and Free Range, and......... ??
Have any of you tried the meats from the free range, natural, organic, ethical, etc. kosher vendors? I am talking about places like
www.growandbehold.com or www.kolfoods.com
or similar (there are others).
My family tries very hard to reduce our environmental footprint and walk-the-walk instead of just talking the talk, but I have yet to take the leap into these vendors. Kosher meat is very expensive, but these vendors are at least 25%-35% more, and that has kept me from patronizing them so far. But as I get ready to purchase for the chagim, I am wondering if they are worth it.
There are many ways to evaluate this purchase: taste, costs, ethics, environmental impact, buy local, kashrut issues, etc. I know that the values part of the equation is very personal. And the kashrut agencies are the same: OU, Star-K, etc.
But what about the quality of the meat? Are these meats noticeably better tasting? less fatty? Or is the value and enjoyment simply that you bought it instead of feedlot cruelty beef?
And, is there really a difference in the way these animal are treated? I can read the claims on the websites, but, the skeptic in me wonders if these animals really live (and die) in a gentler way.
Hello. I am not Jewish, but I've switched over from feedlot animals to organic, pastured, free-range animals. The meats are more nutrient dense, the meats have a fuller flavor, and I find that smaller portions are more filling than larger portions of factory farmed animals. Also, the animals are healthy, no antibiotics and are not forced to eat an unnatural diet. I cannot vouch for the farms which supply the kosher meats, but, I purchase my meats and dairy directly from the farm and I can honestly say that these animals are treated well. However, as I have not visited the abattoir, I do not have any information on that matter.
These traditional organic/pastured foods are more expensive for me and I know that kosher meats raised in this manner are a great deal more expensive. But, for myself, the additional cost is worth it.
I'm vegetarian as well but I have heard excellent things about Grow and Behold. Not only their meats but also their customer service. My friends have also developed the kind of relationship with the Grown and Behold people that I imagine you'd have patronizing the same small butcher for many years like unusual cuts of meat, first dibs on new products, etc.
To some extent, the animals die the same way as any other because of the restrictions of kashrut, but (again relying on a friend's report) they live a far more idyllic life.
Because of the humane issue, I only eat meat from those two sites, usually ordering from Grow and Behold.
Their flanken is hands down the best I've ever tasted - it adds a whole new dimension to my cholent and is my guests consistently comment on how good the meat is.
And, while it's hard for me to compare the taste of their meat to the regular meat you can buy at a supermarket (since it's been a long time since I've eaten other meat), my in-laws have started ordering from Grow and Behold not just to make me happy when I come over, but because they have noticed a difference in taste and quality.
I have ordered from both sites. I've ordered chicken, beef, turkey from both; lamb from Kol and suasauges from G&B. The products are generally better tasting than anything from the supermarket - I've had guests ask me about where I bought the meat/chicken, etc, because it tasts so much better than what they buy. The prices are higher and not sure I would spend the extra just for the taste, but the humane element is really a big deal. And yes, these animals are treated differently. They may not have the idyllic life we'd like to imagine, but a few pictures of cows on a feedlot or chickens in a mass chicken henhouse make a very compelling case for buying from these sits. Right now, I primarily buy from Grow and Behold. They are very responsive, offer very cost-effective delivery options, and I am really impressed with their standards on animal treatment.
I've been buying from KOL for years. The main reason I do so is the humane treatment of the animals. I am also concerned about environmental and worker treatment issues.
The chicken tastes pretty much the same for me as Empire.
The beef is definitely leaner because it is grass-fed. This is probably healthier for you. However, it also tends to be tougher, because the animals actually spend their lives walking around a pasture rather than standing in a feedlot. I find beef used for braising - chuck, French roast etc is great. Rib steaks and hamburger are also very good. However, I would not recommend the flank steak or skirt steak - too tough.
I have ordered from both sites and tried to compare those meats to those I buy locally. I thought the chicken was a bit more "chickeny". My husband saw no difference. The lamb from Kolfoods was had a milder taste than the local fare. That may be better or not depending how you feel about lamb. Grow and behold just started carrying lamb, so I can't comment on them. I do feel the beef tastes better and I thought the skirt steak from Grow and Behold was the best I'd ever had. Good enough to reorder! I tried the turkey thighs from Kolfoods and thought they had a more developed flavor. I just ordered turkey from Grow and Behold so I can't comment yet. The quality of the products and service from both websites has been fine. I don't buy from them exclusively because of the cost and I try to support local businesses as well, but despite the price I do want to support these sort of efforts in the kosher community. One last comment; although it is a website Naf (one of the owners) of Grow and Behold has called me twice to see how I liked the products and asked what I'd like to see. Says something about their customer service.
i am vegetarian so i cant answer many of your questions, but i will say that the only eggs we buy are those that are 'certified humane'. Are any of the meats you mentioned certified humane? That should at least tell you something about how the animals are treated.. As i write this, though, I wonder if shechita immediately disqualifies these companies from being certified?