Good meats

Over the High Holy Days, I used meat that I bought through KOL Foods Los Angeles buying club.

The Washington, D.C.-based company sells beef, chicken, turkey, lamb and duck that is raised on open pastures and killed according to the highest standards of humane slaughter and kashrut supervision. The L.A.  buying club, organized by Got Kosher co-owner Evelyn Baron, enables people to make their purchases online and save on the high shipping costs, which can be more than the food itself. 

You order online, using the drop-down menu to specify your buying club (they exist in Boston, New York, Chicago and other cities). You pay a flat rate of around $50 for shipping (which you can share with a friend or neighbor and you pick up at a designated location, which in Los Angeles is Temple Beth Am on La Cienega Boulevard. Because pickup locations have limited storage space, you must get your delivery on an appointed day, between specific hours. Hey, if you want easy, buy a Slim Jim.

Last Passover, I bought a turkey and some rib-eye steaks. They were excellent.  This year, I bought beef brisket, chickens and whole ducks. 

According to the warm and fuzzy Web site description, my ducks were raised on a Pennsylvania pasture by a sensitive Amish farmer named Aaron.

The grass-fed beef comes from a ranch in Montana. I don’t know the name of the guy there, but, judging by the photos, I do know both my cow and duck lived on much nicer spreads than I do.

So what, you ask? The end of my duck’s luxurious farm stay is the same as the end for a factory-raised duck: a long blade across the throat.

I have no illusions that the end in either case is not wholly pleasant. But an animal’s life beforehand doesn’t have to be nasty and brutish. A recent Forward investigation into the kosher beef industry in South America — where much Israeli meat comes from — revealed ongoing, unconscionable cruelty, all under the guise of kashrut.

That is blasphemy, and kosher suppliers and consumers who don’t act to improve conditions for the animals will cause serious damage to the kosher “brand,” not to mention its actual ethical foundation.

The ideal situation would be for our many local kosher meat stores to carry Aaron’s ducks and those Montana cattle. Not only is it the right thing to do, they taste better.

Both the duck and the brisket I cooked for Rosh Hashanah had superb flavor. But the duck was exceptional — far better than any commercially available kosher duck I’ve ever had. The huge magret was deep red and minerally rich. The meat was tender, and the two or more cups of rendered fat will flavor my roast potatoes all winter. With the brisket, I made my neighbor Holly Wiland’s Brisket With Fennel, Preserved Lemon and Olives. It is so flavorful and light, you think eating that much beef is good for you.

I turned the duck into Crispy Roast Duck With Pomegranate-Fig Gastrique. A gastrique is a sauce that balances sweet, usually in the form of sugar, with sour, usually in the form of vinegar. Duck is rich. It needs a bit of sour to counteract its fattiness. I used chopped fresh figs in the sauce for additional sweetness, and the first pomegranates off my tree for sharpness. Coastal pomegranates never get too sweet, they say. They’re right.

A 3 1/2-pound kosher duck with shipping will run you close to $40. It will require a certain amount of hassle. But what you get is great-tasting food from an animal that lived a pleasant animal life. Factory farming may be cheaper, but there is nothing kosher about it, absolutely nothing.