Rabbi Avi Weinstein

The Eco/Green Benefits of Kosher meat? Dubious

In Uncategorized on February 2, 2010 at 8:51 am

WaPo sees no benefit to Kosher meat when it comes to protecting the environment. Oh well, that was never the reason we did it in the first place.  Still, as everyone becomes more  aware of how hazardous these meat packing plants are to the to the natural world around us, we might think of divulging the fact that there are different standards within the kosher industry and just because it is kosher does not necessarily mean much environmentally speaking.  Because people assume that if it’s kosher, it is better on many levels. There is the danger of  customers paying a premium price for meat under false pretenses.  Guess who gets the blame for that? In the short term it may be profitable, but it is profoundly shortsighted. It is much better to be perceived as policing ourselves than it is to be “caught redhanded”! Rubashkins, anyone?

If there would be a movement by poskim to raise the profile of those slaughterhouses that are more environmentally conscious and also suggest that meat consumption be limited to shabbat and yom tov, not only would the planet benefit, but our health as well.  I never liked the eco-kosher idea, but I might prefer the “Kosher and a Kiddush Hashem” label. Just a thought.

  1. This is a good post and one very much in line with traditional Jewish ethics. As we should recall, it is assur to pass off non-kosher meat to a gentile as kosher. The reason being that even though it technically should not matter to the gentile, we cannot mislead them for our own purposes. We need to understand that Kashrut is not just a religious practice, it is a competitive marketing device that is increasingly being utilized to sell products! In order for it to continue to serve the religious purposes as well, it cannot be marketed under false pretense even when the false pretense arises spontaneously in the mind of the audience.

    • Exactly, but I’m afraid because this has been perceived as a new age Jew cause that people will not see the halachic implications of a widely held erroneous perception. What makes much of the current thinking regarding the environment suspect is that Jewish environmentalists were environmentalists first and then went fishing for sources. This fact is not lost on traditional Jews even if they don’t articulate it as such. We often feel that people are playing “Pin the Pasuk on the issue.” This gives an easy excuse not to take these issues seriously.

  2. Absolutely agree. The problem is that it is absolutely simple to free ride on the perception and say to oneself “who does it hurt”. It starts with the Hebrew National hot dog commercial from the 1980s which implies premium quality (which is to some extent true) and then it goes over to the idea of trying to minimize suffering for animals, which is easily conflated with an environmental bent. Then you add in Eco-kosher and Hechsher Tzedek and all of the different K’s and you have a confusing mess of a market. Unfortunately, the idea of the single butcher, a particularly learned man, taking the life of an animal in reverence and holiness is long gone.

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