If you recently enjoyed your first seitan chicken or loaded vegan pizza and thought you could make a habit of good plant-based eating, you’re not alone. Just in the past decade, consumers made a huge shift toward eating more plant-based foods. Some strive to adopt a healthier diet. Others want to reduce their carbon footprint. Many simply respond to increased availability, visibility, and quality of plant-based products as they become more affordable, convenient, and delicious. More recently, massive coronavirus outbreaks in meat-packing facilities, which lead to product shortages and increased meat prices, are also driving an unprecedented surge in demand for alternatives. These factors, and perhaps heightened awareness of the link between animal-based foods and pandemic risk, contribute to a moment when meat consumption is down in the United States for the first time since 2014.
But consuming plant-based foods isn’t new to kosher households: non-dairy creamers and ice creams, for example, are long-time staples for observant Jews who avoid mixing meat and dairy. Now a long and growing array of kosher egg, dairy, beef, poultry, and seafood analogues grace the shelves of both kosher and conventional grocery stores. Plant-based companies recognize the uptick in demand for their products and, often opt to become kosher certified. Here is what several plant-based giants had to say about why they pursued a kosher certification:
FOLLOW YOUR HEART
Jackie Poles Ran, Director of Consumer and Vendor Relations at Follow Your Heart said that since all of their products are pareve, this gives “consumers more choices and makes meal planning easier. Kosher plant-based alternatives are even changing the way kosher consumers are eating. My cousin keeps kosher and he loves that he can have a plant-based cheeseburger and he’s not even vegetarian. It’s a win-win for the consumer, the animals and the planet.”*
“We chose to pursue Kosher certification to increase accessibility and ensure our plant-based meats can be enjoyed by as many consumers as possible.”*
Califia’s CEO stated: “We want our products to be a part of as many people’s lives as possible, so it made sense to get our products certified so shoppers choosing kosher would have an easy decision.”
“The origin story of Tofurky begins with our iconic roast, which is often served during the holidays. At holiday dinner tables oftentimes there are friends and relatives of many faiths coming together. We felt that the kosher pareve certification would assist with those abiding by Jewish dietary regulations to feel comfortable and welcome at these gatherings.”*
Impossible Foods CEO and Founder Dr. Patrick O. Brown stated: “Getting kosher certification is an important milestone…. We want the Impossible Burger to be ubiquitous, and that means it must be affordable and accessible to everyone—including people who have food restrictions for religious reasons.”
For the new and growing Misha’s Kind Foods in Los Angeles, kosher certification is an important part of the family-owned company story, supporting food justice as the brand expands healthier food options for Black community members.
Jenny Goldfarb, whose signature plant-based corned beef landed her new company Mrs. Goldfarb’s Unreal Deli a major investment on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” says a kosher certification is a selling point both for large food purveyors and for Jewish communities. “Getting kosher-certified was a no-brainer for a Jewish deli company. Many people, including large restaurant chains and non-kosher consumers, view a kosher certification as an assurance of quality. I personally want to see the world embrace more plant-based eating, and that especially includes Jewish communities—Jewish institutions already know our product aligns with their values, and a symbol of kashrut ensures that it aligns with their policy.”*
The proliferation of plant-based kosher products is a win-win for Jewish communities. Many who keep kosher also ascribe to ethical reasons for limiting their meat and dairy intake—from concern for animal welfare and vulnerable workers to a desire to protect the environment. And let’s face it: 50-80% of Ashkenazi Jews are lactose intolerant, making dairy alternatives particularly appealing.
As plant-based purchasing becomes more mainstream, our community and institutional buying commitments reflect this change: dozens of institutions have already shifted away from factory-farmed meat, eggs, and dairy and replaced them with plant-based foods with JIFA’s and our partners’ support.
Serving all or primarily kosher plant-based meals allows institutions to adhere to their kashrut policy, and to articulate Jewish values-based foundations of their practice. Serving plant-based meals can also be motivated by Jewish hospitality, or hachnasat orchim, as the habit ensures that all guests feel welcome to eat what’s on the table. And planning events this way by default is not only inclusive of community members with diverse dietary needs and preferences—it helps establish a more sustainable way of eating as the new norm.
The list of kosher plant-based products is always changing and expanding! To help you with your shopping, JIFA created a complete list of kosher plant-based products that you can find here (this “living document” is updated frequently). And if cooking at home more often has inspired you to expand your horizons, you can check out the DefaultVeg recipe database to search thousands of plant-based recipes to try out your new kosher plant-based products. B’te’avon!
* = Direct statement to JIFA