Life in all its splendor is Mother Nature obeyed.
–Weston A. Price, DDS
Would we be able to maintain our traditional and wholesome diet based on the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) guidelines in Israel? Would we be able to find the unprocessed, natural, and organic foods that we had come to enjoy after switching from the Standard American Diet (SAD) to the healthier Weston Price diet ten years earlier? We were concerned. The WAPF diet was keeping us, thank G-d, in good health and we wanted it to stay that way. Having easy access to more natural products than a yishuv makolet (community grocery store) would offer and close proximity to health food stores were, therefore, important considerations for us when checking out communities pre-aliyah.
In the States we had figured it all out. We frequented three or four local stores where we knew we could buy most everything we needed. In supermarkets and health food stores we purchased organic butter, labeled as such; “rbst hormone free” kosher cheeses; sour cream and cottage cheese without modified food starch and other additives; reasonably priced omega 3 or free range eggs, a variety of organic vegetables, wild-caught fish identified as such, and unprocessed coconut oil and (solid white) palm oil, among other products which we used. At first we bought the pasteurized milk labeled as “rbst free” but we later found a source for raw milk (not always easy to find depending on where you live), access to both organic poultry and beef and other natural food products online or in specialty stores. In general, we had a pretty good idea of what could be purchased and where, were familiar with the brands and products that fit our criteria, and understood (or at least we believed so) what it was we were buying.
When we made aliyah, changing country and culture, we attempted to find what we needed all over again. It didn’t take too long for us to realize that procuring some of the products we were looking for was going to be more challenging than we imagined. (I blogged about the challenges of having to learn how to live your day-to-day life all over again in my post A greener in Israel in my other blog: In A Good Place – Thoughts about life in the Holy Land). Beset by problems of language (my Hebrew being more biblical than modern), a plethora of E-numbers with which we were not familiar as part of the ingredient list (no shortcuts with E-numbers in the U.S.; full ingredient names were required) since we carefully check ingredients of just about all products we buy, and overwhelmed by general acclimatization issues, we conceded that it would take some time till we were able to figure it all out again. To my great pleasure, however, after a bit of sleuthing in the supermarkets my husband did find one of the items that was of great importance to us – yellow butter from pastured cows; white colored butter from cows which are not pastured lack nutrients. You can read all about it in my post How yellow my butter on my blog In A Good Place – Thoughts about life in the Holy Land.
As time has gone by and we’ve become more acclimated to Israel and our community, we found that we could eat a fairly good Weston Price diet here (contingent upon cost and accessibility/location of products). We have been able to buy more of the foods we were looking for, or at least know that they can be had in Israel. Discovering a number of kindred souls here, including Weston Price “fans”, who like me, are searching for butter from pasture-fed cows, raw milk, organic veggies, and interested in fermenting foods, has also helped.
Lately, I have been contacting food companies and organic food organizations here in Israel to get more information about the foods that are available and what it is exactly, that we are eating.
I decided to find out more about the quality of the butter from the four different European companies we found* whose butter is imported to Israel. I checked out the company websites and made a few calls, too. Here is what I found out so far:
The President brand butter* comes from the Normandy region in France. Their website implies that their butter is grass-fed without specifically stating so (perhaps they consider that a given?) as follows:
France’s #1 butter is made from high-quality cultured creams in the northwestern portion of France referred to as the “Grand Cru” of European dairy regions. Its oceanic climate, rich soil, and lush grass help produce butters that are distinctly rich and savory.
When I called the President butter’s U.S. office, the individual I spoke to told me that there were no hormones/antibiotics given to the cows and as far as pasturing – although he couldn’t give me a definitive answer, he did say that only the U.S. doesn’t pasture its cows. I guess he never met an Israeli cow!
When I called to find out about Lurpack (Danish) butter (be careful to buy the butter and not the spread) I was told that the milk used is mostly but not exclusively from pastured cows since some of the dairies are too far from the pastures.
Champion brand* is Irish butter and knowing that Ireland has lots of lush green land, we figured it is probably from pastured cows. A color check revealed a deeper yellow color than we saw in the other butters we bought. A friend’s information and internet search confirmed that the Irish Champion brand butter (certified kosher) that is imported here is the same as Kerrygold brand Irish butter (not certified kosher) marketed in other countries (see here); it comes from predominantly grass fed cows and is considered to be high quality butter.
Town of Monaghan makes it butter from locally produced fresh, high quality full fat milk from cows that are fed on a predominately grass based diet. We concentrate our efforts on the flexible and efficient production of Irish creamery butter in accordance with traditional methods.
We frequently buy Makabi brand butter (chalav Yisrael). They sell two different butters (beurre) which come from 2 different regions in France – Normandy and Poitou-Charentes. When I called Makabi’s Israeli office, the gentleman told me that he thought the latter was a bit better quality; however it seems that I was the only one who ever asked them if the cows were pastured and no one in the office knew. I was referred to the French website which also made no mention of how they took care of their cows (my husband, who can speak French, checked it for me). He also sent an email to the company, but we never received an answer. Considering that these regions of France are known for their excellent pasture land, I feel it safe to assume that the cows are (predominantly) pastured.
So it seems that, with the possible exception of Lurpak, these butters are made from milk by predominantly pastured cows and, in consonance with European standards, are free of growth hormones and antibiotics.
I will tell you more about what I have discovered about other foods in following posts.
For more information about butter and a listing of organic/natural food products in Israel go here.
I would also like to hear of your interest in Weston Price and/or a natural foods diet and what you would hope a chapter in Israel could help you with.
Updated May 2, 2017: The information regarding the particular brands of butter has been updated. Please also note the following:
Our latest article, Why you want grass-fed butter and where to find it in Israel, has more information regarding butter in Israel, including additional imported brands of butter now in the market.
*Champion butter has not been available in Israel for a while. I recently called the importer who told me to check back with him in a month.
The following information from Kerrygold’s US website and which was previously included in this post has since been taken down.
Kerrygold’s F&Q section on their website states the following:
The vast majority of an Irish cow’s diet is from rich, natural grass which grows abundantly in Ireland. We endeavor to work in harmony with nature in the care and feeding of our cows.
Ireland’s location on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean gives it a temperate climate, not too hot and not too cold and with regular rainfall which is the perfect weather for growing grass.
Approximately 2/3 of the land in Ireland is used for farming and agriculture and 80% of this land is used to grow grass. This grass gives the Irish countryside its green colour and is the basis for the description of Ireland as the Emerald Isle. This abundant supply of fresh grass is also what makes the Irish dairy industry and Irish dairy products unique.
Irish dairy cows graze on fresh grass in pastures all day long for up to 312 days a year. In fact, Irish cows graze outdoors on grass for longer than almost every country in the world.
During the winter, when grasses stop growing, Irish cows are fed dried grass (known as silage). This grass is grown throughout the year, cut fresh and stored to be used when the winter comes. Cows in Ireland calve (give birth) in the spring and are therefore outdoors, grazing on green grass when they are producing milk. After calving, cows are provided with supplementary feed to help restore protein and nurture them through this period.
The majority of our cows’ supplementary feed is locally grown crops such as wheat and barley. As a small island, Ireland does not have enough land available to grow certain crops locally; therefore a number of crops are imported.
These imported crops comply fully with strict European and Irish legislative requirements on labeling and traceability.
As far as genetically modified (GM) feed is concerned they explain:
Our ongoing discussions with the grain and dairy industry have established that of this approximately 10% grain/supplements, approximately 20 to 25% may be from GM sources. This means that approximately 3% of a cow’s total typical annual diet may be from GM sources.
GM is a relatively new issue in an Irish context. We are taking an active role in exploring the potential and challenges around using GM free grain in the Irish dairy industry. Supplementary feeds are important for the health of the animals. They are used to give the cows a healthy and balanced blend of nutrients, providing them with protein, energy and fiber.
We can confirm that Kerrygold butter and cheese do not contain GM ingredients.