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Meet the Meat People

Malky Lowinger

Is there a sizzling roast or a perfectly sliced deli platter on your Yom Tov table? How does meat get from farm to table?

Thursday, September 20, 2018

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Then and Now

A hundred years ago, there were people in every town who raised chickens in their yard, and every community had a shochet. Animals were raised and slaughtered locally. There was no such thing as a giant meat production plant.

The laws of shechitah and the halachos of kashrus haven’t changed a bit, of course, but technology has made it easier and more convenient for us to purchase meat and poultry. Most of these products are produced and processed in central, specialized facilities that provide kosher meat for people all over the world.

Join us for a virtual tour of the Agri Star factory, one of the biggest producers of kosher meat and poultry (that’s a fancy word for chicken), which is located in Postville, Iowa. You’ll meet Chaim, who runs the factory. Chaim’s been living in Iowa for the past 28 years and knows a lot about the process of producing meats. 

The Agri factory is huge. Hundreds of people work there every day, including about 20 mashgichim who make sure that everything at Agri is perfectly kosher, as well as representatives from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) who make sure that everything is done according to government standards.


Delicious Deli

First things first. “I want to clarify something from the get-go,” Chaim tells Jr. “Some people think that deli meat, burgers, and franks are junk food, but they’re not. They’re actually made out of pure meat that gets ground or emulsified, with flavor and seasoning added. There are absolutely no fillers or byproducts in our deli meats.”

Whoa! Wait a minute. Emulsified? What’s that?

It turns out that there are two types of processes for these meats. Burgers and salami are ground. Others, like hot dogs and bologna, are emulsified. They means they grind them up, but into very tiny particles. How can you tell the difference? Easy. When you look at salami you can actually see the small bits of meat and fat that are bound together. Bite into a hot dog, though, and it’s all one color. That’s how you know it’s emulsified. You learned a new word today!

How are deli meats made, and what gives them that super-yum flavor? 

Of course, Chaim can’t tell us all the details of the process, because then he would be giving away his secret recipes. But he does explain that the deli meats are first cooked. “But not the way you would cook it at home,” he adds. “It’s a very unique, very slow cooking process. We cook the meat at low temperatures for many hours. This helps it retain its soft texture and delicious flavor.”

That flavor, of course, is what it’s all about. And Chaim says that Agri’s unique process allows them to season their products to perfection. “It’s not like when you’re cooking at home and the marinade and seasonings sit on top of the meat. Here it actually penetrates the meat so it’s evenly spiced. That’s why it’s so tasty!”

(Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 728)


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