Osteopath’s search for poultry that is both kosher and organic leads to a new business
(Eddy Basch prepares an organic kosher chicken at his home. Gazette photo: Peter McCabe)
By Michelle Lalonde, The Gazette
About a decade ago, Montrealer Eddy Basch decided to start eating only organically grown foods. As an osteopath who embraces a holistic approach to health and well-being, Basch was becoming more and more convinced that many of the aches and pains he was treating in his Outremont office, as well as chronic illnesses, could be prevented through healthy eating and physical fitness. ”Most of the people I see are really out of shape and not aware how much what they are eating affects them. People seem to think that eating well means controlling calories and they forget about quality,” he said. Basch had always been physically active and interested in environmental issues. Turning away from processed foods and embracing organics was something that just made sense to him, especially after his two children came along. Switching to organic vegetables was no problem, especially since Basch loves to garden and grows as much of his own food as he can on a plot of land he owns in the Laurentians. But the hunt for organic meat was more challenging, since Basch and his family are Jewish and eat only kosher foods. Under Jewish dietary law, certain animals may not be eaten at all, but those birds and animals that can be eaten must be killed in a certain way. Kosher slaughter is not done by machines (as is the case at most industrial farms), but by a “shochet,” a person who is specially trained to slaughter animals in as humane a manner as possible. Aside from the slaughter method, kosher organic chickens are raised just like other organic poultry. This means the birds spend time outside every day hunting and pecking, they are not given growth hormones or antibiotics (except to treat illness), and they are fed grain that is organically grown, not grain that has been genetically modified or treated with pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Industrially produced chickens, on the other hand, are generally raised in windowless buildings, crammed into small cages, exposed to artificial light and given drugs to make them grow faster and prevent disease in this unhealthy environment. Not wanting to choose between organic and kosher, Basch decided to take matters into his own hands. “I knew we could get kosher organic poultry from the states, but that was not a practical solution, so I decided I would make it myself,” he said. So in 2002, Basch approached the owners of Marvid Poultry Inc., a kosher slaughterhouse in Montreal North and then went to visit several certified organic farmers in the eastern townships. They made a deal. Basch would arrange for transportation of live, organically raised chickens and turkeys to Marvid Poultry, where they would be slaughtered in a kosher manner and packaged under Basch’s new brand name, “Tiferet Organics.”. ”I just went on a hunch that there were other people like me, educated professionals who adhered to kosher dietary laws and were looking for organic foods. I gambled, and it has paid off.” Though Basch declined to say how many clients he has, he says his business is growing steadily. Basch and his wife, Tania, now run the business from their Cote des Neiges home, attracting customers mainly through word of mouth and their website.They sell their kosher organic chicken and turkey at a half-dozen groceries and health food stores in Montreal, as well as a few outlets in Ottawa and Toronto. But many clients prefer their home delivery service, Basch said, because even with the delivery cost, they save on the retail mark-up. The price for kosher organic poultry is, of course, considerably higher than conventional chicken and turkey. A whole chicken is $12.63 per kilogram ($5.73 per pound) and a boneless skinless chicken breast is $30 per kilogram ($14 per pound). Yup, that’s pricey, but presumably Basch’s customers would rather eat organic, cruelty-free meat less often, than the cheaper, less tasty, less healthy meats offered at most grocery stores every day. Although most of Basch’s clients are looking for kosher poultry for religious reasons, he expects to gradually broaden his client base to non-Jewish customers who like the idea of a more humane killing method. Kosher slaughterhouses, he explained, “use a surgical scalpel to cut into the neck of the animal in such a way that the animal doesn’t feel anything … so it is a far more humane way of doing it. These guys are very smooth, so they don’t panic the animal. If the animals panic, they release adrenalin, which affects the quality of the meat and the taste. That’s why many people claim that kosher meat tastes better,” Basch says. Tiferet Organic products are certified by Ecocert Canada, an organization that conducts on-site inspections to ensure production rules for organic agricultural products are respected. But Basch says the Kosher inspection process at Marvid is probably even more thorough. ”Each animal is inspected for flaws in the viscera, by inspectors who have been trained just in that, and if there are defects, which could indicate some illness, those animals are disqualified, so they cannot be declared kosher,” he noted. For Basch, it all comes down to respecting our bodies and what we put in them. And if supporting local, organic farmers can also help protect the environment, all the better, he says. firstname.lastname@example.org
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