Since JIFA’s inception we’ve received hundreds of inquiries about where to find humane kosher chicken, and we never enjoy having to break the bad news: only hybrid poultry is available on the kosher market. While the gold standard in higher welfare—heritage poultry—is available to the non-kosher consumer, kosher heritage poultry has been unavailable for over 50 years. Today JIFA is proud to announce that after months of hard work and coordinated efforts heritage chicken will once again become available to kosher consumers in all 48 states!
Almost two years ago Yadidya Greenberg, now JIFA’s Kosher Meat and Animal Welfare Specialist, drove 161 heritage chickens to a kosher slaughterhouse in NY. When he arrived, several people at the facility who had never seen a heritage chicken asked him if the animals were kosher. But when the head Rabbi of the slaughterhouse looked at the birds he knew exactly what they were, exclaiming, “These are the chickens we ate when I was a kid!”
Heritage birds were once the standard in the poultry industry, but their availability changed dramatically with the emergence of the hybrid chicken in the 1950’s. Hybrid birds grow three times faster with half of the feed. While heritage chickens reach a live weight of five pounds in about four months, hybrid birds do so in less than six weeks. The rapid growth of hybrids wreaks havoc on the lives of these birds who experience painful problems with skeletal development, heart and lung function,1 obesity,2 and more. Hybridization also created an unnaturally cheap product and now makes up over 99.9% of the American poultry market. As a result, the much smaller kosher chicken market had to follow suit.
Over the past 10 years, as higher welfare kosher meat companies have emerged, consumers have become increasingly aware of where their meat comes from and how it was treated. This new wave of interest in welfare informed the creation of JIFA and also inspires us to empower caring kosher consumers with humane kosher food choices. JIFA has been working with Frank Reese of the Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch— the country’s foremost breeder of heritage chickens and turkeys—as well as two kosher meat distributors, KOL Foods and Grow & Behold, who have established reputations for the quality of their higher welfare products. Both distributors have shown a consistent commitment to welfare and have been excellent partners to JIFA by helping provide heritage chicken to the marketplace.
On November 15th we were able to work with these partners to bring a run of over 1000 heritage chickens to kosher processing facilities in Pennsylvania. With JIFA representatives overseeing the welfare of the birds during gathering, transport, and slaughter, this partnership has made heritage kosher chicken available again for the first time in half a century.
While this is great news, we still need your support to help ensure continued success. In order for higher welfare kosher chicken to become more widely available, it’s crucial that we create demand. Our goal with KOL Foods and Grow & Behold is a long term partnership and commitment so that kosher consumers will continue to have access to more humanely-raised poultry.
As we work to foster the growth of and demand for higher welfare kosher products, we encourage you to consider your values when making food choices. By choosing heritage, you’re doing your part to turn Jewish values of compassion for animals into action by helping to create a meat industry that we can all feel good about.
- J.C. McKay, N.F. Barton, A.N.M. Koerhuis, and J. McAdam (2000). The Challenge of Genetic Change in the Broiler Chicken. BSAS Occasional Publication: 1-7.
- Y. Wang et al. (2009). Modern Organic and Broiler Chickens Sold for Human Consumption Provide More Energy from Fat Than Protein. Public Health Nutrition 13(3).