Bringing local back to kosher: A new pathway for sustainable poultry processing

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2015: $13,475.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2017
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Project Leader:
Robert Friedman
Robariah Farms

Annual Reports


  • Animals: poultry
  • Animal Products: meat


  • Animal Production: meat processing, meat processing facilities
  • Sustainable Communities: community services, ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change, food hubs, local and regional food systems, partnerships

    Proposal summary:

    In Massachusetts and New England, the absence of local kosher poultry processors is a significant problem with market demand rising for sustainably raised, locally produced kosher meat. The problem is compounded by the question of cost effectiveness that small-scale commercial producers might face in accessing local kosher processing. As owner of Robariah Farms, we propose a new approach to address this regional issue. Leveraging existing local poultry processing models and integrating required elements of traditional kosher processing, including hiring of an on-site shochet (ritual slaughter), we will pilot a model of kosher poultry processing conducted locally in Western Massachusetts that supports small-scale commercial volumes. Our technical advisor, an experienced manager of a local mobile processing unit owned by New England Small Farm Institute (NESFI), will manage the processing and work in conjunction with the shochet. We will collect data at several points throughout processing and across multiple processing batches to analyze production efficiency and cost effectiveness. We will compare results against data from two control groups: a non-local, kosher facility and a local, non-kosher unit. We will share our experience and analyses with key local agricultural institutions through a written case study, which agencies can publish in newsletters or use for presentation at programs. Our grant collaboration with UMass Extension Center for Agriculture and NESFI, along with involvement in Northeast Organic Farming Association, provides ample opportunity for information to widely reach key stakeholders, including poultry producers, processors, and consumers.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Our proposed solution:
    We will adapt a state-certified local poultry processing facility to integrate traditional kosher slaughtering practices. We will hire a shochet (trained ritual slaughterer) to oversee processing and ensure that core kosher techniques are applied: shochet conducts the kill using a specific technique with specialized knives to minimize animal pain; scalding is prohibited, thus requiring use of specialized plucker to remove feathers; evisceration must be supervised by shochet to ensure proper internal inspections; and kashering of the carcasses is conducted, a process in which meat is salted and rinsed to ensure depletion of blood (traditionally considered the source of life).

    We will work with our technical advisor and shochet to modify the processing facility to support a kosher product. For example, due to a kosher prohibition on scalding poultry prior to plucking, we have identified a commercial dry-plucker that we anticipate will enable efficient removal of poultry feathers. We are prepared to invest in this necessary equipment, with limited support from this grant, to facilitate kosher processing.

    We will conduct multiple batches to collect sufficient data to understand production efficiency and overall cost effectiveness in our integrated local, kosher approach.

    Our methods and measurements:
    Our project goal is to assess the production efficiency and cost effectiveness in using a local poultry facility to kosher process small-scale commercial volumes of poultry. To accomplish this, we will conduct a series of processing batches to provide ample data in support of commercial production volumes. Because our approach has not been tried to date, we would assume to gain production efficiencies in the progression of batches. We plan to raise poultry in three (3) distinct batches during the 2015 growing season. Each batch will be pasture raised and then processed over 2 days. The volumes and number of groupings were identified in consultation with our technical advisor, based upon his expertise of the potential production volumes and costs associated with non-kosher local poultry processing.

    Of the three proposed batches, we will begin the growth of batch one in May 2015, allowing for processing of batch one to occur near the end of June 2015. Batch two will begin in June 2015 with processing to occur end of July 2015. Batch three will be raised starting in July 2015 with processing to occur in early September 2015. Lifespan of our chickens will be approximately 8-12 weeks, based on average growth rates relative to the poultry breed. 

    Two of the three batches will consist of Cornish Rocks, a quick growing meat bird that reaches peak weight within 8 weeks. One batch will consist of a heritage breed, which generally take about 12 weeks to reach their peak slaughter weight. Processing multiple breeds will provide additional angles of data to inform our final results.

    Data will be collected at multiple points during the processing of each batch. Quantifiable data including production time, volumes, and manual labor involvement are key data areas that we will obtain at multiple points during processing. We will take measurements to collect said data for the kill phase, plucking phase, evisceration phase, koshering/salting phase, and the packaging/labeling phase. These quantities will be identified per batch and analyzed collectively across batches.

    Contextual data will be identified to support the measured data. For example, if processing configurations are modified between batches to support increased production efficiencies, then this information will be recorded to support data. Or issues concerning equipment (e.g., repairs) or inputs necessary to accommodate kosher processing will be documented for purposes of future uses. We will also document final costs required for the local, kosher processing. Costs will be analyzed by batch and across batches. Costs will include a division between expenses for general processing and specific to the kosher process.

    We will conduct processing in a local processing facility (either the MPPU owned by NESFI or a brick and mortar facility planned to open spring 2015) managed by our technical advisor. Standard equipment will entail cleaning supplies, eviscerating knives, thermometers, aprons, gloves, chill tanks, hoses, electric cords, 1,000 pounds of ice, propane, 60 quart stock pots, poultry shears, ten 75-quart coolers, tool box for repairs, shrink bags.

    In addition, kosher processing will require specialized equipment. For example, the schochet will use specialized kill knives. On-site refridgerators or coolers must also be used to store finished poultry during the koshering/salting period. A key piece of equipment necessary for production efficiency in kosher processing is a dry plucker to compensate for the avoidance wet plucking generally conducted in non-kosher processing immediately after scalding. We have identified a commercial-level dry plucker that our technical advisor believes will provide for comparable production efficiency as achieved through scalding and wet-plucking. We will invest in this dry plucker as capital cost and seek for limited funding through this SARE grant to support this sizable but critically necessary piece of equipment.

    Timetable of our project:
    Task – Batch 1 production & processing
    Dates – May-June 2015
    Who – Robariah Farms, Peter Laznick, schochet
    Outcome – 100 kosher chickens

    Task – Batch 1 data analysis
    Dates – July 2015
    Who – Robert Friedman
    Outcome – Data results capturing production volumes, times, and costs

    Task – Batch 2 production & processing
    Dates – June-July 2015
    Who – Robariah Farms, Peter Laznick, schochet
    Outcome – 200 kosher chickens

    Task – Batch 2 data analysis
    Dates – August 2015
    Who – Robert Friedman
    Outcome – Data results capturing production volumes, times, and costs

    Task – Batch 3 production & processing
    Dates – July-September 2015
    ?????Who – Robariah Farms, Peter Laznick, schochet
    Outcome – 300 kosher chickens

    Task – Batch 3 data analysis
    Dates – October 2015
    Who – Robert Friedman
    Outcome – Data results capturing production volumes, times, and costs

    Task – Complete data analysis
    Dates – November 2015
    Who – Robert Friedman
    Outcome – Data results capturing production volumes, times, and costs across batches and in comparison to control groups

    Task – Produce written case study
    Dates – December 2015
    Who – Robert Friedman
    Outcome – Printed case study capturing experience and data analysis from project. Circulate to key collaborators and other interested parties.

    Task – Conduct presentation on case study
    Dates – January-March 2016
    Who – Robert Friedman, Carrie Chickering-Sears
    Outcome – Information sharing with key stakeholder audiences across Massachusetts, including producers, processors, and consumers.

    Our outreach plan:
    Data analyses and project results will be documented and captured in a written case study. Working with our grant collaborator from UMass Extension, we will circulate our project results through the UMass Crops, Dairy, Livestock, Equine, and Poultry Newsletter that reaches over 5600 recipients, along with the MA 4-H Newsletter.

    Our collaboration with UMass will also yield two workshops in eastern/central and western Massachusetts, development and distribution of workshop flyer, posting of information on UMass website. Our UMass collaborator will contact the Farm Bureau, SARE, MA Department of Agricultural Resources, plus poultry networks to release workshop information and any further announcements.

    We will also circulate our findings by supporting multiple workshops facilitated by the UMass Extension. Our case study will further be published on our farm business’s website. We will work with other entities to circulate our findings as widely as possible, within our local farming and kosher-buying communities. Potential entities may include Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture, Northeast Organic Farming Association, New Entry Sustainable Farming Project, NESFI, and Hazon (one of the nation’s largest Jewish environmental organizations and host of annual sustainable food conferences).

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.