Kosher foods

how exactly are kosher foods determined?

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I’m not jewish, and I really don’t know if this helps, but I was once a supervisor in a poultry plant that supplied a small amount of chicken for the kosher market (about 500 head per week). It wasn’t my department and I didn’t pay a lot of attention but I seem to recall that a Rabbi or some such holy-man came to the plant to do the deed. Each bird was hand picked for defects and the “lucky” ones were hung upside down in a special hanger with a funnel type neck collar which prevented blood splatter. Each bird was blessed as was the knife that slit their throat. The knife was cleaned after each bird and was examined with a magnifying glass for any nicks or burrs in the blade. As I said, I didn’t pay a lot of attention and I’m relying on my poor memory so I could be off a little on some of the above points. I’ll be watching this post for corrections and defer to those more knowledgeable than myself…God I love this site.

Not sure exactly what you mean, you’ve got some links that may help. Overview:

The original determination of what is or is not kosher is from the Torah (first five books of the Bible), probably dating from somewhere between 1000 and 1250 BC. Some of these regulations were unclear (What does it mean, not to eat a kid in its mother’s milk?), and so there was also an oral tradition that accompanied the earliest texts.

Somewhere around 100 BC - 300 AD, groups of rabbis got together, compared and wrote down the various oral traditions (some of which were contradictory by that point) and made rulings on what was kosher and what wasn’t. Since then, various boards of rabbis have made determinations on new products or new animals (like those found in the New World, frinstance), based on the rulings (and the rationales) set down by the earlier rabbis.

There are some foods that are or are not kosher by their very nature (for instance, a banana is always kosher, and shrimp is never kosher.) Then there are foods that can be kosher or not – for example, chicken, depending on how the animal was slaughtered, how the blood was drained, etc. Mixture of meat and milk products is not kosher. The banana, kosher by itself, becomes not-kosher when fried with pork lard. The rules are many and complex.

If a food company wants to have a food declared as kosher, the process is complicated and costly. There are several boards of supervising rabbis who will come in to the factory to inspect the entire process, to ensure no “contamination,” appropriate slaughter, and so forth. The food may then carry a label marked with the approval of that rabbinic authority. It is illegal in the United States to mark a food “kosher” unless it has approval of some rabbinic authority and meets various government standards (unlike labelling a food “natural”, for instance, which is almost never illegal.)

The larger rabbinic approval boards have special symbols (for instance, the Chicago Rabbinic Council has a CRC label in a triangle) that can appear on the labels. There are also private labels, where some rabbi asserts that the product is kosher under his authority.

Does that help?

Interesting sidebar:

Muslims are instructed by Islam that “the food of the People of the Book is lawful unto you.” That means that when Muslims are outside of predominately Islamic areas, they’ll eat at Kosher restaurants and shop at Kosher groceries. The Hadith (Muslim version of Talmud) apparently interprets “Food of the People of the Book” as only being food that meets the kashruth regulations.

BTW: I was under the impression that the ritual slaughterer had to actually test the knife edge with his thumb.

I’ve never heard the ‘test the knife with your thumb’ theory. Only that the knife has to be free of imperfections to ensure a clean cut and ‘painless’ death of the animal. We got in an argument over this at the passover table because I personally think they should either kosher-ize the bullets used to shoot the cow (or whatever automatic equipment is used to kill them.) Personally, I’d rather be shot in the head then have my throat slit and ‘painlessly’ die over several minutes from blood loss and asphixiation.

One thing I have heard though is that the training to be a kosher butcher is a big deal and that there is a special place on the chicken/ cow neck they slit to supposedly make the death ‘instant’. I wonder if ninjas train at the same place? :slight_smile:

Yes, there is a specific place on the neck where the slice must be made. For example, giraffes would be kosher (cloven hoofs and chew their cud) but their necks are such that it’s impossible to do a kosher slaughter.

OK, so why are pickles typically labelled as kosher? I mean, how could a pickle NOT be kosher? Were the cucumbers harvested inhumanely? Was not all of the blood drained out? I don’t recall anything in the Pentateuch (sp) that could make a vegetable forbidden.

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Are kosher pickles really kosher?

Short answer: polysorbates are sometimes added to pickle brine as an emulsifier. Polysorbates are made from animal fats. So, yeah, gotta keep an eye on how them pickles are made to make sure they’re kosher.


You’re not a cow (I assume). The nervous systems of ruminating mammals are unique in that when the trachea and esophagus are severed (requirements for kosher slaughter), the animal feels no more pain from its body.

Chaim Mattis Keller

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impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be
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