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You are here: Home » GreenFaith in the Media » Press Clips » Changing the World...One Chicken at a Time

Changing the World...One Chicken at a Time

By Arlene Fine
Cleveland Jewish News

GreenFaith Fellow, Amalia Haas, starts "The Green Taam," a kosher pasture raised poultry business in Ohio.

Changing the World...One Chicken at a Time

Green Taam Team, Amalia Haas and Ariella Reback, with their prized poultry


Entrepreneurs Build Pastured Kosher Poultry Business that Goes from Coop to Soup

 

Ariella Reback and Amalia Haas, owners of a new pastured kosher poultry business, have a lot to cluck about. Their free-range chickens, ducks and turkeys are being raised to provide healthy fare for their clientele and to eventually feather their own nests.

Two years ago, Haas, 40, a Jewish environmental educator, planted the seeds
of the women’s fledgling business they named “The Green Taam.” (taam means
taste in Hebrew). Intrigued with the idea of raising her own poultry, she bought 14 ducklings online, allowing them to roam freely in her fenced Beachwood backyard. They fed on grass, clover, bugs, and organic feed and had access to fresh water.

“I wanted my children to see how ducks grow and our family to take responsibility for raising our own food,” says the Orthodox mother of four. When the ducks were “ready to go to market,” Haas held each animal while the shocket (kosher ritual slaughterer) prepared the meat for the table.

“Incredibly delicious,” pronounced Haas’s family and friends after tasting the duck, she recalls. “Although raising and eating our own poultry seems novel to us, this was the way poultry was raised and enjoyed just two generations ago in this country.” This model changed once poultry could be economically mass-produced and raised in tightly Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). “Highly stressed animals are housed in indoor factories, administered antibiotics, and fed only chemically treated grains,” says Haas. “This is in sharp contrast to the lush, pesticide-free outdoor farmland where pastured poultry can roam and grow.”

Haas and Reback are part of a growing national movement focusing on the environmental and health consequences of foods for human consumption. These issues are at the forefront of the bestsellers The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan; Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver; and in the current documentary “Food, Inc.”

“When I learned how kosher meat and poultry has been grown and processed, I stopped
eating meat,” says Cleveland Heights resident Dr. Trysa Shulman. “I believe you are what you eat, and an angry chicken that is cooped up cannot produce the healthiest food. That is why I am excited about the pastured chickens being sold by The Green Taam. I think there will be a good demand for their product.”

Last year, Haas shared her family’s brief farming experience and passion for pastured poultry with participants at a Jewish sustainability conference. Her story sparked the interest (and appetite) of a New York investor, who told her he was willing to help fund a business venture that brought kosher pastured poultry to Jewish communities in the Midwest.

“He was interested in creating a new model for the kosher meat industry, where the customer has access to where the food is coming from, the process of slaughter, and an awareness that workers are treated fairly,” Haas explains.

Many people in the industry were still reeling from the Agriprocessors’ scandal, in which
owners of the Postville, Iowa, kosher slaughterhouse – the largest in the nation – were
accused of violation of labor laws, bank fraud, and mistreatment of cattle.

“After Postville, there are voices in the Jewish community calling for a model of meat
production where the treatment of workers and animals is guaranteed in accordance with
halachah (Jewish law),” notes Haas.

Haas enthusiastically shared this potential business venture with Reback, an attorney and the wife of Rabbi Edward Bernstein (Conservative Congregation Shaarey Tikvah). Soon afterwards, the two women formed The Green Taam.

“Amalia and I have always been committed to providing healthy foods to our children,” says Reback, 37, mother of three. “We also share a commitment to sustainability and high ethical standards in our Jewish life.”

Haas and Reback paid a visit to Geauga County farmers Andy Miller and Marvin Hershberger, whose vegetables are sold through CityFresh at Shaarey Tikvah, a community produce co-op held weekly at the synagogue. Both Miller and Hershberger follow sustainable practices and believe in humane treatment of animals and workers.

“All of the poultry on these farms live outdoors, which means up to 50% of their daily diet
comes from the pasture itself: grasses, clover, bugs and seeds,” says Haas. These farmers use no hormones, animal byproducts or antibiotics, and supplemental grain is locally sourced and infused with organic vitamins and minerals.

The Green Taam arranged for Rabbi Elly Jacobs of Cleveland Heights to schecht (slaughter), soak and salt the birds “according to the highest standards of kashrut,” says Haas.

The women used their investors’ capital to buy a “dry plucker” machine to de-feather the
animals.

The first batch of kosher pastured four-pound chickens sell for approximately $20 each and
will be ready for delivery on August 20. Each customer must order a minimum of four chickens and pay a $4 delivery fee. “As of this week, we are sold out of our duck ($6.50 per lb.), and over 50% of our chickens have been ordered,” says Reback.

The $5 a pound price tag is higher than a whole conventional, factory-raised kosher chicken at Tibor’s Kosher Meats that sells for $3.29 a pound. “My organic chicken are not big sellers,” says Tibor Rosenberg. “I have no comment on what these women are doing until I see their product.”

The high price, say the women, is due to the extremely labor-intensive work of raising this
type of poultry. “The farmers move the poultry two to three times a day to fresh grass and
provide supplemental grain twice a day,” explains Haas. “They must also be alert to predators and protect them from bad weather. There is also a natural loss of poultry in each batch.”

Comparing pastured poultry to the packaged factory-bred poultry found in stores is like
comparing apples to oranges, maintains Haas. “We will never be able to produce our product on a super-large scale because each animal requires great attention.”

The Green Taam’s efforts this year are trial runs for a more significant business in the coming year. “We hope to turn a profit when our volume increases and we are able to expand this model throughout the Midwest,” says Reback. “We are very encouraged because we have inquiries from around Ohio, New York and Chicago.”

The entrepreneurs hope to eventually have a whole string of local, small farmers in Geauga, Ashtabula, and Lorain Counties raising pastured poultry. “Income from raising poultry would improve the viability of small farmers in Ohio,” notes Haas. “We have lost 31% of our family farms in Lorain County over the last 20 years. As our business grows, we are hoping that The Green Taam can provide an opportunity for them.”

For information, thegreentaam.com

What makes poultry kosher?

These specifics are for poultry only. Large animals and fish have different laws of kashrut.
• Kosher poultry includes only certain species of domesticated fowl, such as chickens, turkey and duck. Wild birds or birds of prey, such as owls, vultures or eagles, are considered tamei (unkosher).
• Poultry must be killed through shechitah (laws of ritual slaughter). Death must be as swift, painless and as humane as possible. If an animal is killed violently by another animal or the slaughter is not completed properly, then that animal becomes nevaila (unkosher dead carcass).
• Following shechitah, the bird is examined. The legs are checked for breaks and other
sicknesses, and bedikah (inspection) is made on some of the internal organs for certain
defects.
• The Torah prohibits eating the blood, which is considered the life of the animal. In order to draw out the blood, after the bird is checked and cleaned, the carcass is soaked in water and then covered completely with kosher salt for a prescribed length of time. The salt is rinsed off the bird, and then the bird is dunked in clean water three times. At this point it is deemed kosher.
• Kosher poultry processing requires that birds not be heated by hot water or fire prior to
soaking and salting. In non-kosher processing, poultry are typically scalded before defeathering, which allows feathers to be quickly removed. In contrast, kosher poultry defeathering must be done without heat or steam, requiring a more labor-intensive process.
• Halachah (Jewish law) applies specific rules to the shochet (individual who performs the
ritual slaughter). The shochet must have yirat shamayim (fear of Heaven) and special training in the laws of shechitah.
• The shochet shows his knives to a rabbi or to another shochet before he starts to schecht.

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