So What is Kosher Meat Anyways?

If you like to indulge in Jewish cuisine, then you have most certainly come across the term “kosher.” At Holy Schnitzel, we work hard to keep our foods kosher, both for religious reasons and also to ensure that our food is of the highest quality. When it comes to kosher meats, there is a complex process that must be observed to ensure that the meat is indeed up to snuff. This, in turn, ensures that animals are treated respectfully before they die and that the meat itself is of the highest quality.

First, did you know that the Torah strictly forbids the eating of carrion, or animals that have died of natural causes? Among other things, eating such meat could expose you to the disease that ultimately killed the animal. Kosher meat should only be consumed by animals who have been culled according to Kosher traditions. (Let’s be honest, how many non-kosher meat processors would turn down a recently deceased animal?)

Some modern practices that are common in the meat packing industry are strictly forbidden by the Torah. For example, animals should not be electrocuted or provided with an anesthetic before being slaughtered. Doing so would render the flesh trefah, or unfit for eating. Likewise, limbs should never be removed before the animal is culled.

There is also a specific process called Shehitah that must be followed when slaughtering the animal. Among other things, following Shehitah will ensure that the animal is killed swiftly and respectfully. Failing to follow Shehitah could expose the animal to unnecessary suffering and who wants that?

Shehitah is a complex and technical process that entails severing the esophagus and the trachea with one swift cut. The cut should be carried out only with a perfect knife that is free of defects, and the cutter himself must not hesitate when making the cut. As such, it is also forbidden for the flesh to be torn during the cutting process. Neither excessive pressure nor chopping motions should be used either. Burrowing the blade between the esophagus and trachea (or under the skin) is also forbidden.

Anything less is not only cruel but renders the meat inedible according to the Torah. It’s also forbidden to slaughter a parent with its young on the same day. Some of these rules may seem a bit arcane but when followed, kosher practices help to ensure that the animal is treated respectfully and culled as painlessly as possible without corrupting the meat.

Kosher meats are also expected to be very pure. This is part of the reason why animals killed by natural causes are considered unfit for consumption. For example, meat from an animal that is killed by another predator is most certainly unkosher. Meat from animals born with birth defects or certain missing organs is also forbidden.

In practice, most of the animal is not inspected upon slaughter, unless visible defects are found. However, there’s one serious exception: the lungs. When it comes to kosher meats, the lungs must be closely inspected by an expert. Why? The lungs are the most likely organs for defects to appear in.

Further, certain veins and blood vessels must be removed because the blood cannot be extracted through salting. Why no blood? The theology is complex, but among other things blood has a special purpose according to God: it was sacrificed as ransom for Israelite lives.

As you’ve already guessed, ensuring that meat is kosher is no easy task. That’s why only trained experts, and pious Jews no less, are allowed to act as slaughterers. That’s also why Holy Schnitzel relies on many of the area’s most reputable Halal meat providers to provide the meat for our establishments.

Don’t worry, however, we also use methods on our own end to ensure that our foods are kosher. For example, we use black lights to ensure that no contaminants make it into our food. At the end of the day, we follow kosher practices because our religion requires us to. However, the peace of mind that comes with kosher foods is certainly a nice bonus.

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