By Rachel Wizenfeld
Some want to avoid hormones, some care about ethical treatment of workers, and some just want a really good steak. It’s the latter group that makes up the majority of Naftali Hanau’s customers, though that wasn’t the main reason he was drawn into the business of providing pasture-raised, hormone-free kosher meat and poultry.
When Hanau met his wife, Anna, they were both working on organic farms. Once they married, they planned to start their own vegetable and chicken farm in Rochester, New York. Hanau began studying shechitah but soon realized that it would be extremely challenging to live a frum life while running a sustainable working farm—impossible to walk to shul, for starters, he jokes. At the same time their plan stopped seeming realistic, Hanau started noticing a void in the market for sustainably raised kosher meat.
Hanau opened Grow and Behold in the summer of 2010, a company that distributes sustainably raised kosher meats. “We are about ethical food,” says Hanau.
Sustainably raised meat can mean many things, including pasture-raising for both cattle and chickens, which besides being more humane, allows the animals to eat a wider variety of foods and exercise their muscles. It also creates more flavor in the final, shechted product. Grow and Behold works with a number of small farms that raise animals according to their standards (in ways that support the natural environment and respect the natural instincts of the animals). The company’s unique approach, detailed on its web site (GrowandBehold.com), includes fair pay for workers, feeding the chickens and cattle non-GMO feed, avoiding antibiotics and keeping animals calm during processing.
While there are kosher companies on the market producing organic chicken and meat, Grow and Behold is not certified organic. “Chickens can be confined to cages, fed organic corn and still be marked ‘free-range organic,’” says Hanau. “Organic standards are not the be all and end all [to healthy meat and chicken],” Hanau notes, adding that for many of the small farms they work with, the cost of organic certification is often too high to bear.
There are myriad challenges to the job, including making sure they have enough animals at the right time, finding the right farmers, coordinating between the farmers and the meat plants, transporting the animals and moving them through the shechitah process efficiently.
The meat, slaughtered under OU supervision with OU-approved personnel, is delivered to consumers nationwide, but primarily in the tri-state area. Grow and Behold also provides meat and poultry to several high-end New York kosher restaurants. They offer buying clubs and shipping options for customers outside the New York area, and have regular customers as far away as Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. Their warehouse is in Brooklyn, where the Hanaus also live (with chickens in their backyard), and Hanau spends a lot of his time on the road supervising and coordinating operations.
On the web site, customers can choose from succulent steaks, flavorful lamb cuts and plump chickens and turkeys—all OU-certified. Though prices are higher than those at your local supermarket (chicken costs almost double and beef weighs in at 40 to 60 percent more per pound), Hanau claims his prices are comparable to what you would find at a high-end kosher butcher shop.
But for those looking for ultimate flavor and texture, the price is well worth it. While Hanau admits that it’s often hard for customers to get over the initial price hurdle, once people try his meat, they’re hooked.”
Hanau says, “We founded Grow and Behold Foods because we wanted the kosher community to have the same option of buying ethically and sustainably produced meat that exists in the nonkosher world.”
Rachel Wizenfeld founded PopWriter.net. She lives with her family in Los Angeles.