Our nation is enslaved to an industrial food system that is making us sick and fat. It abuses workers (with many cases of modern day slavery), is inhumane to animals, pollutes our drinking water with manure and pesticides, and contributes to climate change. Eating is a religious act. These foods do not reflect Jewish values of humane treatment of animals, workers rights, protecting the environment and human health.
This Passover, we can liberate ourselves from this system by supporting farmers that grow food more sustainably. Below is a list of suggestions for your seder and throughout the year. There’s so much more that can be done, so please share your ideas in the comments section, at the bottom of the post.
Beitzah (hard boiled egg)
*Choose happy chicken eggs.
Choose eggs from chickens that are raised humanely (feathers not removed, not de-beaked, have plenty of space, spend time outside and eat a natural diet). Yes, the myriad of egg carton labels are confusing, so the Humane Society of the US provides a great explanation page for consumers. The highest animal welfare standard for eggs is offered by Animal Welfare Approved, which includes a list of certified providers by zip code.
Farm workers are the backbone of our nation’s food industry, toiling under dangerous conditions for meager pay and exempt from many of the nation’s labor laws. Farm workers–including those harvesting grapes–their families and nearby communities are exposed to pesticides, putting them at risk for short and long-term health effects. Hazon offers a list of certified organic, kosher for Passover wines.
*Choose ocean-friendly fish
Fish populations worldwide are under severe threat because of industrial fishing. “90% of the world’s fisheries fully fished or in decline,” according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Serving sustainable fish is a great way to protect threatened fish stocks and support fisherman catching environmentally-friendly fish. The Seafood Guide has all of the answers for what fish to buy and eat, including which Whitefish and Carp for your gefilte fish. And, if you don’t want to make your own, check out the Gefilteria’s artisanal, Brooklyn-made gefilte fish.
Maror, Chazeret, and Karpas (horseradish, greens, vegetables)
*Buy produce from a local farmer.
Knowing who and how your produce is grown is a huge step in ensuring that you are buying from a small, sustainable farmer. Small local farmers are integral to your community food system: their farms save open space, ensure continuity of family-owned farms and provide delicious, produce grown with more environmentally-friendly techniques.
Zroa (roasted shank bone)
*Opt for a roasted beet
Worldwide, 77 billion animals are raised annually for food, generally under inhumane conditions that violates tza’ar ba’alei chayim (the Talmudic law preventing cruelty to animals). Raising livestock contributes more greenhouse gas emissions globally than transportation. And it takes a whopping 2,000 gallons of water to raise a pound of beef. Opting for a vegetarian seder is easy. And, replacing a shank bone with a roasted beet is common amongst vegetarians and “the Talmud mentions beets as one of the vegetables sometimes dipped during the seder.” If fully eliminating meat is too drastic, become a “reducetarian” or go Meatless Monday.
*OR choose sustainably-raised meat
If you do prefer to eat meat, buy sustainably-raised meat. Such animals are raised in natural and normal environments on small farms: grass-fed, humanely raised on pastures. In addition to using these standards, Robariah Farms, Wise Organic Pastures, Kol Foods, and Grow and Behold are certified kosher, too.
Haroset (“bricks and mortar” mixture)
*Support your local beekeeper
Honeybees pollinate every third bite of food we eat, amounting to $19 billion in US crops annually. Bees are under threat and dying off from Colony Collapse Disorder, (CCD) threatening crop yields. CCD is thought to be caused by climate change, pesticides, habitat loss and pests. Buying local honey for your haroset supports farmers and beekeepers who are protecting critical wild honeybee populations.
*Choose organic apples
Apples are rated #1 for pesticide residue on Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list. If you’re choosing just a few organic produce items for the holiday, apples should be at the top of your list. Pesticides are a toxin used to kill bugs and other plants that are invasive to crops. However, many pesticides toxicity extends beyond the fields to consumers and dangers include: “brain/nervous system toxicity, cancer, hormone disruption, skin/eye/lung irritation.”
*Choose organic, hormone-free dairy.
Forget the iconic images plastered on milk containers of rolling hills, red barns and frolicking dairy cows. Nearly 90% of all dairy cows raised in the US are done under inhumane conditions, where they are crammed into indoor pens, fed corn and pumped with rGBH (genetically engineered hormone to make them produce more milk). Opt instead for dairy products from cows raised under humane conditions: on pasture, fed grains and without rGBH.