Thursday, July 19, 2012

This Kosher Paleo Steer Has Sharp Horns

Grazing cows in Sudbury Meadows

Torn between two lovers, feeling like a fool ... loving both of you is breaking all the rules ... remember that song? It's how I feel when I think about keeping kosher, and keeping paleo. Mary McGregor sang about a woman who loves two men at the same time, for the different things they bring to her life. That's how I feel about paleo and kashrut, and living in Winnipeg, they really are not compatible. The horns of this dilemma are getting sharper and sharper as I struggle to bring my health back under control after the stress of Ari's Bar Mitzvah.

I have had an auto-immune disorder since 1987 (at least). At times of great stress and/or lack of sleep (they do tend to come together, don't they?), it will flare up without fail. In the past I have had to resort to steroids and other unpleasant medication. I became a vegetarian in 1992, after a particularly virulent flareup that landed me in hospital for six weeks. I knew something was wrong with my diet, but I didn't know what.

In the last few years I have come to the conclusion that the high-carbohydrate diet we were all encouraged to ingest in the 90s (and which I have inculcated all too well into my children, sigh) is part of my problem. To reduce the amount of carbohydrates in my diet and increase the protein and fat, I have begun eating wild-caught salmon and local pickerel and pike. I have blogged about all this before.

I have not, however, brought meat and fowl back into my life, and this is where the horns of my dilemma are.

It is not hard to find kosher meat in Winnipeg. It would be very disruptive to my home to start buying and cooking it, because right now my kitchen is completely dairy. Fish is considered pareve (neither meat nor dairy). Once upon a time the same was true of chicken, but it has been considered meat (despite having neither hooves nor cud) for centuries now, so I am not going there. In any case, I would have to buy a completely new set of dishes, pots, pans and everything, and make room in my small kitchen for everything to be double.

I might have done all of that, but all kosher meat that I have seen in this city comes from factory farms. And that's where I hit the second horn of the dilemma.

It is not hard to find grass-fed, pastured meat in Winnipeg. But it is not kosher. It is halal, but not kosher. I know Jews who have declared it to be Eco-kosher, meaning that they consider its provenance as grass-fed to be more important than its slaughter with a sharp knife, removal of the non-kosher sinew and everything else that is involved in kosher slaughter. I am not at that point - keeping a kosher home is a very important part of the identity of my family. We keep Shabbat and other laws, and we are not prepared to bring non-kosher meat into our home.

But I am also not prepared to eat factory-farmed animals. I don't think that eating them would improve my health in any way, and I don't want to support that industry. While I find that I am not emotionally attached to being a vegetarian, per se, I do not want to take part in the maltreatment of animals. This quite aside from the indisputable fact that factory-farmed animals produce inferior meat, high in Omega-6 and low in Omega-3.

There are companies out there that provide grass-fed, kosher meat. The nearest buying club that I can find is in the Twin Cities. The buying clubs give a certain discount for bulk, and you have to pick it up from a JCC or synagogue, four times a year or more if there is demand. Otherwise you really need to be near NYC.

Bringing this meat to Winnipeg would be a huge undertaking. Am I talking myself into it? Or should I just accept that I am not going to be able to eat a truly paleo diet, to support my body with the nutrients it needs? And what about that desire to support local farmers, rather than bringing in frozen food from far away?

What I really need is for somebody to start slaughtering locally bred, pastured animals in the proper kosher fashion. Even if it is just chickens, to start with. I wonder if that is an even huger undertaking than bringing it in from the United States?

What to do, what to do?


  1. That's a real dilemma. As a kosher vegetarian going on 31 years now, I can't even contemplate bringing meat back into my life. There used to be organic chicken here in Montreal, but I think it went under due to lack of demand.

    The mistreatment of animals is not "just" a health issue; it's a halachic issue too. We are forbidden to cause stress or suffering to an animal-- it's called "tza'ar ba'alei chaim." In fact, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein paskened, 'way back when, that the factory farming method used to produce veal (force-feeding calves and keeping them penned up with no exercise or daylight) is prohibit by this law, and that any veal so produced, even if the animal is kosher-slaughtered, is not kosher.

    It's hard to keep all the principles in balance, isn't it?

    1. Well, after nearly 20 years it's not easy for me, either. However, there is no doubt that my body needs more protein, and I can't handle the amount of carbs that would go with getting it from vegetarian sources. It is indeed a hard balance ... between sharp horns!

  2. You have a conscience, and you bring up good points. It shouldn't be so hard :-(. I have not eaten veal in 20 years, because I cannot bear the methods that are used to produce it. I am hoping that you can find a way to eat the way you need to, and observe the laws that are important to you. I think you might wish to forgive yourself if you have to not eat local if you find an acceptable source of Kosher, Paleo meat...

    1. Thanks, sweetie! I posted this blog in the local food bloggers' group and got an interesting response from the owner of the local kosher store ... so who knows where this will go.

  3. I would go with eco-kosher -- and keep that as strongly as the other. Kosher can be redefined by other principles. I think that keeping the standard kosher is weak-- it makes you feel safe in the busom of consensus. But going eco-kosher is strong-- you are defining the principles by which you worship god in a cosistent way, thinking for yourself instead of relying on other peoples decisions (like rabbis from 1700 years ago). This is interesitn Dassi, I have become a naturalist eater -- I took out meat and dairy from my diet and now am not awakwned at night by hip pains, and feel better about not eating other conscious beings. And you are going the other way.

    1. I'm not surprised that removing factory-farmed meat and dairy from your diet has improved your health, Z. Yosefa told me that there is actually no other kind available in Israel, which is kind of shocking but I guess understandable given how small the country is. Here, however, there is no such excuse.

      I do understand what you are saying here, but removing ourselves from the kosher community would go much further than relying on our own decisions (which we already do - and right now we choose to be inside the normative lines). Doing so for self-indulgent reasons would be a message to our children I am not ready to send.

      Thanks for the food for thought, though!


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