Those same laws, requiring humane treatment of animals, sensitivity to their well-being, careful and humane slaughter, and strict inspection for any physical defects, also result in the production of minutely inspected and extremely clean meat products of the highest quality.
Nowadays, for most Jewish kosher consumers living far from the farm and relying on others to prepare the meat for their table, observance of these laws today requires the highest level of trust between kosher consumers and the meat producers they rely on. This is the story of an extraordinary family and their extraordinary commitment to these Jewish values of quality and spiritual purity in food production.
Rabbi Refoel Franklin had grown up in rural Montana and loved the land and nature. In the early ‘80s, after he finished his religious studies, he returned to his rural roots and bought a farm in upstate New York.
This was a true leap of faith. At first he wasn’t sure what he would do with the property, but he knew he had to follow his heart and stay close to the land. He had been trained as a shochet, or ritual slaughterer, and had worked in that industry, but had become aware of deficiencies in the kosher meat production prevalent at that time, and resolved to create a practice, or shechita, that would meet the highest religious standards and be beyond any reproach. So, he partnered with leading kashrus expert Rabbi David Miller, opened for business, and named the company Pelleh (or “Wonderful,” in Hebrew).
Their first product was chickens, carefully processed and inspected to ensure the strictest standards were met, delivered fresh to local observant Jewish families, and institutions. At first, the “wonder” was that it survived. There was no guarantee of success, because small kosher meat processors were under tremendous commercial pressure. It was a period of major industry consolidation, and most of the small plants—typically focused on local markets or the interests of their own religious communities, not the realities of business pressures—were rapidly closing down, unable to compete with the giant kosher meat processors.
But high-speed, high-volume kosher meat production means corners get cut, and Pelleh never compromised. Word of Refoel’s exacting kashrus standards spread, and prominent rabbis began to endorse his products. Some, in fact, would eat only his chickens, and no other meat! So, despite facing uncertain economic times and many challenges, Pelleh persevered, and grew.
Today, Pelleh’s business is thriving. In addition to their popular chicken business, Rabbi Refoel and his son, Eliezer, process duck and squab (young pigeons bred for meat) in their 6,000-square-foot facility, and create delicious products like duck cherry sausage, duck fry “bacon,” and rillettes, a rustic, savory French spread that’s delicious on baguettes, toast points, or toasted bagels.
The Franklins also produce minimally-processed organic milk, rich “Icelandic skyr” and Greek yogurt at their growing dairy operation, Bethel Creamery, situated on their 135-acre farm in Swan Lake, NY. Only milk from their own herd of Jersey and Jersey/Holstein cross cattle is used, and milk from the outside is never allowed on the premises. Combined with complete control over feed and product cycles, this ensures that their milk products are always kosher for Passover and inherently cholov yisroel, (meaning it is handled only by Jews during critical production phases).
Pelleh Poultry is proud to use famed Joe Jurgielewicz and Sons as their sole Long Island (Pekin) duck suppliers, ensuring a “heritage breed” taste and perfect meat-to-fat ratio. Pelleh’s products are kosher certified by Rav Dovid Miller and the Orthodox Union (OU).
If you’re in the neighborhood during the week, stop by! We’d love to show you around. And while previously you had to be “in the neighborhood” to get delivery of our products, now you can shop online wherever you call home.