It’ll be time soon. I’ll be looking in my freezer, and my meat supply will be running low. Sooner or later, it’ll be time to head back up to Los Angeles with my cooler and stock up on kosher meat.
It’s a huge production number – wake up early on a Sunday morning and head either up to Fairfax to Western Kosher or go to mid-city to Kosher Club. Load up the cooler with meat and some ice and get it back down as quickly as possible to Long Beach, where I put each piece in freezer bags as to prevent freezer burn so I don’t waste money on meat. The result tends to be $200-$300 worth of meat that needs to last for the next three months.
Living in Long Beach, our only source for kosher meat is Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods (which costs an arm, leg and kidney for a chicken). The Albertson’s near me has phased out a lot of its kosher meat, and none of the other major markets stock it. And although we have a kosher market in Orange County, I find that it’s trickier to shop there. Not everything is available when you want it or even how you want it. I love them, but going up to LA is easier in many respects.
I’m not the only one who does this. My mother-in-law in San Diego does a meat shop a couple times a year. Her community gets together and creates a big order for someone to go get meat up in the San Fernando Valley at a place called Ventura Kosher, and they bring it down. It’s not as necessary anymore, as they have more kosher meat selection now thanks to new-and-improved La Jolla Ralphs (which has its own kosher butcher and everything). But the struggle for people to get kosher meat outside of a major city center is tricky.
With the Internet, there are some people who can order their meat online and have it delivered, although it’s almost exclusively for the New York area. A friend of mine, when she started keeping kosher, said that she discussed with her then-roommate about having meat delivered from the Big Apple. I scratched my head a little with that one – after all, we have kosher meat in the greater Los Angeles area. We don’t need to be dependent on New York for that one (although my cousin Jacob said that it has kosher kobe beef – and I want that).
It leads to the usual story of supply and demand in the kosher community, mainly in the fact that it doesn’t exist in a lot of places. Many companies and shops know of the demand, so they can get away with price gouging and lower quality meats as long as people can get it local. The demand won’t go away because of the religious obligation, and it makes me sad that just because there is a built-in contingency that it allows the supply to not be as good.
In Los Angeles and New York, people are fortunate enough that they have their choice of kosher markets (not to mention several mainstream markets that provide for the community), so the ones that do the best job are the ones that get to stay open. It’s the same with the restaurants that are in the area: Since there is competition, the best (or the one that the public deems the best) are the ones that survive. However, in other parts of the country, there are places that only seem to be open because they are the only kosher options in the area.
It’s a request I made last Passover, and I’m going to make it again for the days outside those eight: Kosher shops, restaurants, etc., please put some effort in providing us good quality meats. In the non-kosher world, if you don’t put out good quality meat, you get busted or you don’t succeed over the other people who are delivering it. I think the same should apply for the kosher world. Let laissez-faire rule the kosher world!
And as a side note, please don’t be afraid to bust out some gourmet items. I know that dry aged beef is starting to come out, and there are kosher turduckens available online. Give us the good stuff; we’ll come out for it.