by Slow Food USA intern Gabrielle Redner
Food labels such as Organic and Free Range are meant to provide us with some sense of security about our food, but sometimes it feels like the more I know about the label, the more I have to question it. When I can’t get to the farmers market, I opt for Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, but normally I don’t buy meat there, even if it is labeled Organic. I just feel better buying from a person who raised the animal until it became the meat in my fridge.
Recently, I had to buy chicken from the supermarket, because I was cooking a kosher meal for a friend. Personally, I saw the purchase as an exception to my usual habits: I had to step out of my comfort zone in order to adhere to religious law. I later learned that some people who purchase kosher meat expect the Kosher Heksher (label) to mean that the animal was raised and killed in ethical conditions. Some people even buy kosher meat because they assume it was produced according not only to Jewish law, but also to Jewish ethics. Buying kosher meat for them is like getting the guarantee I get from the farmer’s market. However, when the largest kosher slaughterhouse in the world, AgriProcessors, was Nina Budabin McQuown, contributor to the Jew and the Carrot (a blog that covers the intersection of Judaism and sustainable food issues) put it, “There seems to me to be a pretty enormous disconnect between Jews who think that kashrut is a system of laws designed by god to help our ancestors eat ethically, and Jews who think kashrut is a system of laws designed by God, period.”