The question for Marjorie seems to be should she buy ethically raised and produced local meat that isn't kosher technically but feels kosher emotionally? Or, should she buy meat that's technically kosher and ethically produced but whose cost is virtually prohibitive for anything but an annual brisket?
Here's a quote:
"Some friends of mine are starting a share in a cow. Someone knows a farmer. The farmer’s cow leads a pure life, injected with far fewer chemicals than most of our major-league ballplayers. The cow will be killed painlessly, but not by a shochet. Do I want in? I think the last unkosher beef I ate was a Ball Park Frank at a Pawtucket Red Sox game when I was 6. But sometimes I think: If kosher is unkosher, why not go ethical? If I make the effort with fruits and vegetables, why not with meat? And if not now, when?
On the other other hand, I do understand what most Orthodox authorities are saying: Kashrut is entirely separate from oshek, the oppression of workers that Judaism forbids. And a cow staggering around with a slashed throat may have been killed within the letter of the law. The reason for kashrut, they say, is because God said to do it. Period. Ours is not to reason why. And yet I do."I read that and thought, "Hmmm, there are all sorts of thing that either God says or the rabbis say God says not to do that many progressive Jews do, or don't do, as the case may be. Many progressive Jews don't pray three times a day. Many are gay. Many use electricity on the sabbath or wear shorts and tank tops on a hot day. We pick and choose all the time. So what is it about kosher that's so different?
It's not that I don't get the dilemma. I don't keep kosher, but I don't buy pork chops because I don't want my kids to think it's OK to eat them home. Out? You choose. That's how I was raised. Kosher in the house, not-so-kosher outside of it. And from where, or, more accurately, how I sit, that, while apparently crazy, actually makes (some) sense. Because I take the laws of kashrut to be an expression of difference. This is what "we" eat; this is what "we" won't eat. Like it, lump it, discuss.
After all, Jews have lived in diasporic communities for thousands of years. During all those years, what they chose to eat and how they chose to begin and end their meals were ways to maintain a sense of distinction from the culture at large in which they lived.
Because food is sustaining, but it's also differentiating. We make choices all the time about when, how, what and where we'll eat. Those choices are defining. I don't eat at McDonalds. I shops at Whole Foods, Trader Joe's (coffee), Farm Markets and Fairway. Didn't you run into me there last week?
Beyond food allergies and preferences, food choices reflect who we are in the world and with whom we identify. If you're going to eat according to rules, should they be the rules of the mostly seasonal, preferably organic and primarily locavore or the Jew? If you choose the former and you're a Jew, what separates you from anyone else of any other faith commitment? How does what you eat reflect your identity as a Jew, an identity you might wish to share with your children, if it doesn't comply with Jewish law? If as a Jew you/I don't choose kosher meat, are we all just melting into a great pot of progressive, if sometimes cranky, leftiness? You know: Peace Now, Barak Obama, and grass-fed beef!
In my own home, as I said, I've decided not to keep kosher. If I buy meat, it's only the gently raised kind. But that only solves the question of dinner. It doesn't begin to address the much bigger issues of identity, community, or difference. In spite of her kosher dilemma, Marjorie seems to have got that stuff covered. Me? To quote her: "I dither."