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My friend Simon spent his day pulling feathers out of turkeys.  While I clicked away at a keyboard in my office, he plucked – getting these just-slaughtered birds ready for their Thanksgiving debut. Simon is the founder of Kosher Conscience, an ethical … Read More

By / November 15, 2007

My friend Simon spent his day pulling feathers out of turkeys.  While I clicked away at a keyboard in my office, he plucked – getting these just-slaughtered birds ready for their Thanksgiving debut.

Simon is the founder of Kosher Conscience, an ethical kosher meat coop in NYC.  Don't let the word ethical fool you.  A self described "vigorous carnivore," he is about the farthest thing from a. a vegetarian or b. a hippie as one can possibly get.  He also has a seriously learned Jewish background on which he bases his ethical grounding – which is more than can be said for many Jews out there who wax zealous about "eco-kashrut," (ahem, myself included). 

Kosher Conscience has no intention of surreptitiously convincing Jews to eat less meat – you can leave that to PETA.  Instead, it answers the question: how do you enjoy the simcha of meat" without being soulless about it? 

For Simon, it seems the answer is: know where your meat comes from (by partnering with local farms), insist on certain standards (free range, organic), know how it's being killed (by partnering with an equally local shochet), and get as close to the process as possible.  Most of the people who will eat Kosher Conscience turkeys next week did not spend today up to their tucheses in turkey feathers.  They did not witness the process of an animal moving from a living, breathing being to the sacred gift of food.  But they know the person who did.  A bird like that is far more "thanks-inducing" than the plastic-wrapped Butterball variety the supermarket.

This Thanksgiving turkey schecting marks Kosher Conscience's first significant project.  Simon says, "The goal of Kosher Conscience is ultimately to be unneccesary- the concepts of kashrut and prevention of tsar baalei chayim should be synonymous and will, hopefully, be regulated as such by the present hechsher systems." 

The particularly powerful thing about Kosher Conscience is that, like CSAs, kosher, ethical meat co-ops have the potential to grow virally, sprouting up in communities across the country wherever there's interest (and a willing farmer and shochet, which at first might be a limiting factor).  Whether or not these coops will ever impact the major hechsher systems remains to be seen – unfortunately, when it comes to ethical anything, the big guys decidedly lean towards the "soulless" category. 

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