The Rabbi and the Industrial Food Plant

What does it mean to suggest that a particular food is kosher? Certain things immediately fall short: pork or shellfish, for example. Bacon-wrapped scallops would be right out. But with the raid on a massive kosher meat processing plant in Iowa still fresh in the public mind, the debate over ethical eating has crossed over into America’s Jewish community, where the links between food, religion, and ethics are strong and primal.

Andy Kastner, profiled in a New York Times Magazine story exploring the connection between kosher eating and modern dining ethics, sees ritual slaughter as a way to establish a direct connection to food, and a way to affirm the ethical treatment of the animals we eat:

“He says the rules around kosher food—like the requirement that meat be slaughtered by a pious person with a certain intention and the requirement to say a blessing over every food acknowledging its source (land, tree, grain, other)—encourage mindful eating and discourage overconsumption of resources. Kastner is part of a nascent Jewish food movement that draws upon the vast body of Jewish traditions related to agriculture and farming; Judaism, for all its scholarly abstraction, is a land-based religion.”

Whether the definition of kosher food will evolve is still yet to be determined, but the discussion has begun.

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