"I've noticed that quite a lot of people who are prominent in the animal liberation movement are Jews. Maybe we are simply not prepared to see the powerful hurting the weak." --Peter Singer (Author, Animal Liberation)


Organic Style: Is Kosher Meat Healthier?

In its "No Stupid Questions" column, the October issue of Organic Style attempts to answer the question, "Is Kosher Meat Healthier?" The answer is a mixed bag:

But safer, cleaner meat doesn’t guarantee that it’s healthier: Kosher animals are raised on conventional farms, which often administer growth hormones and antibiotics. And kosher hot dogs can be loaded with nitrates and saturated fat. If health is your goal, choose organic kosher meat.
Organic Style is dead-on in noting that animals deemed kosher come from the same factory farms that separate babies from their mothers shortly after birth, restrict movement in tiny enclosures, and perform bodily mutilations such as debeaking, branding, and castration without painkillers.

The magazine should also be commended for saying that kosher meat isn't necessarily healthier. Just one Hebrew National Beef Frank contains 6 grams of saturated fat--about a third of the recommended amount for an entire day--which is only 1 gram less than typical hot dogs that are made from miscellaneous innards!

The magazine then goes on to push its own agenda (and it even promotes a specific brand of organic kosher meat). Whether a hot dog is made of 100 percent beef or pig intestines, and whether the animals are drugged up or not, a hot dog is still going to be high in animal fat and cholesterol. Even hot dogs that come from kosher-certified animals who have been raised under organic conditions aren't going to be healthy.

The column also conflates the relative superiority of shechita in Biblical times with its modern flaws:
Kosher meat is considered safer and cleaner than conventional meat for good reason. Strict Jewish law requires rigorous inspections: Animals must be active and healthy before slaughter and blemish-free afterward. ... The slaughtering process is also considered by some to be more humane and hygienic.
Some do contend that shechita is less inhumane, but humane it is not. As Holocaust historian Charles Patterson wrote in his book Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust:

One bitterly ironic feature of killing operations is their attempt to make the killing more "humane." By "humane," the operatives mean they want the killing to be done more efficiently and to be less stressful on the killers. The truth is, of course, they're not really interested in being "humane." If they were, they wouldn't be killing in the first place.
In 96 percent of USDA-regulated slaughterhouses, cattle are required to be rendered "insensible to pain" (e.g., stunned) prior to slaughter, but because of a technicality in kashrut, this is not the case under shechita. In kosher and halal slaughterhouses, animals fully feel the pain as the shochet slits their throats open, even if he specializes in bringing death as quickly as possible. An investigation last year at the world's largest glatt kosher slaughterhouse revealed that cattle prods were being used, cows were having their trachea and esophagi torn open (not quite an immediate death brought about by cutting the jugular vein), and animals were languishing in agony for up to several minutes after the fatal cut was made. And as I blogged about last weekend, shouldn't the vast majority of veal be rejected as traif, and shouldn't it raise suspicions that such a cruelly obtained product is so widely accepted by hechshers?

Is kosher meat safer and cleaner? Surely inspectors are more likely to rule out obviously "unsafe" meat than in conventional slaughterhouses. But if you're worried about Mad Cow disease, E. coli, saturated fat, cholesterol, heart disease, various forms of cancer, and so many other ailments, you're best off eliminating animal flesh from your diet altogether.


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