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Life Arts    H4'ed 3/9/11

Devora Kimelman-Block, KOL Foods and The Virtues of Grass-Fed Meat

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My guest today is Devora Kimelman-Block, founder and CEO of KOL Foods, the nation's first retailer of nonindustrial, grass-raised kosher beef, lamb, chicken, turkey and duck. Welcome to OpEdNews, Devora. There's lots to talk about. Let's start with the basics: what is nonindustrial meat and poultry?

Non-industrial meat comes from animals that have never been in confinement feeding operations, fed antibiotics or food that is unnatural for their digestive system. Cows, for example, are ruminants and evolved to eat grass. Over the past 50-100 years, people realized that they could fatten up cows much quicker by feeding them corn, antibiotics and hormones. Similarly, chickens are fed arsenic for the same reason. It saves time and money, but has produced a host of negative consequences, including poor health, environmental degradation, food safety issues, and harm to the animals themselves.

Many assume that certified organic meat is sustainable. Unfortunately, this is not the case. "Certified organic" meat means that the animals have been fed USDA certified organic corn and not fed antibiotics or hormones. However, they still live in confinement, and cause similar waste and environmental problems. In the kosher world, all certified organic meat and poultry (Wise Organic, Empire Organic, Kosher Valley, etc.) that you can find in the common marketplace is industrial organic . The reason I created KOL Foods was because I found industrial organic to be only slightly better than conventional confinement meat and poultry.

In terms of poultry, to call your meat "free range" you must give the birds "access" to the outdoors. But many of these birds live in the same-old industrial confinement house, but have a door that the could walk through during certain weeks of their life. Most chickens (not your adventurous sort) never go through that door so it makes no difference that it is there at all.

There are many advantages to 100% grass-fed (or "pasture finished") meat. (You need to say that because all cows eat grass for the first part of their lives before being brought to the industrial feed lots. What's important is that they eat grass their entire lives). I have a side-by-side comparison here . What I did not include in the comparison is that grass-fed meat is also much safer. [See this article at our website about how eating grass-fed beef lowers your risk of E.coli infection.]

What do you mean, Devora, that grass-fed meat is also safer? Safer how?

Eating grass-fed beef lowers your risk of E. coli infection . Folks at Cornell University have determined that grass-fed animals have far fewer E. coli than grain-fed animals. What's more, the small amount of E. coli they do have is much less likely to survive the natural acidity of our digestive tract--our first line of defense against infectious diseases.

Why this marked difference in the survival of the bacteria? Feeding grain to cattle makes their digestive tracts abnormally acidic. Over time, the E. coli in their systems become acclimated to this acid environment. When we ingest them, a high percentage will survive the acid shock of our digestive juices. By contrast, few E. coli from grass-fed cattle will survive because they have not become acid-resistant. When cattle are fed their natural diet of grass, our natural defenses are still capable of protecting us.

Beef also has a bad rep among nutritionists, but that is unfair for grass-fed meat! According to research from the University of California, grass-fed beef is higher in beta-carotene, vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids than conventional beef.

So, let me make sure I understand you correctly, Devora. Are you saying that the reasons to avoid red meat don't actually apply to the healthier choice of grass-fed animals?

I get many customers that have been recommended grass-fed beef by their doctors. Usually it is women who are in childbearing age that are missing certain minerals or proteins or children that may be experiencing neurological issues. Their doctor specifically say don't get the corn-fed feedlot beef which is high in saturated fat and cholesterol - it needs to be grass-fed. The reason why fish is considered healthy is because of it's Omega 3s - but then you have to deal with its mercury contamination. Feedlot beef doesn't have the Omega 3 balance so no one mentions it as a good alternative. Grass-fed beef has the Omega 3s without the mercury.

Here is a quote from Patti Lerner, one of my customers who is working to bring KOL Foods to her city's college dining hall.

"My agenda in this is that since my respected doctor, who is on the list of 100 top doctors, a heart and lung specialist who was a pioneer in baby heart transplants decades ago tells me that grass fed is going to measurably improve the health of everyone, I want our food system to change so people are healthy."

How did you go about creating your own kosher alternative to current meat production?

In July 2007, I established a partnership with my synagogue in Washington, DC, a slaughterhouse and a local farmer to make the first glatt* kosher, organically raised, local, grass-fed meat available. Scores of kosher consumers were eager for this product. In just its second offering, the program generated sales of more than 2,400 pounds of beef through a single email. Jews from 14 different area synagogues, ranging from Reform to Conservative to Orthodox, purchased this beef. We were so encouraged by this powerful consumer response that we worked to expand to meet the demand.

An impressive debut! Then what?

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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