Small guide to kosher meat: everything you wanted to know

Small guide to kosher meat: everything you wanted to know

Kosher meat is subject to specific rules and controls, ranging from the type of animal to the tools for slaughtering: here is a brief guide.

The stringent dietary regulations of the Jewish people , enclosed under the name of  casherut , provide that, according to the  halakha  (the law),food standards are enclosed under the name of casherutthe food to be consumed must be kosher : suitable, suitable. These rules, written in the Torah and interpreted in the Talmud, establish, in addition to the prohibition of mixing meat and dairy products, also the exclusive consumption of certain animals, which ruminate their own bolus and have a completely split hoof. And they also predict that such animals were slaughtered according to a process known as  shechita . The level of holiness that a Jew can achieve depends on the strict observance of these rules.


  1. The permitted meats . Following the indications, cow , veal , sheep and goat meat are allowed. Because they are impure, those of horses and camels (which ruminate but do not have a hoof), pigs (which have a hoof but does not ruminate), hare and rabbit (which in turn ruminate, but are without clogs). Some sheep and goats are considered pure, but also the gazelle and the chamois, even the giraffe, although it is not consumed. As far as birds are concerned, all those animals that tradition has not yet recognized as kosher are considered impure. They are specified in detail in Deuteronomy, like raptors, while for kosher ones there are well-defined physical characteristics such as the extra finger in the back of the paw, the goiter, the gizzard. Therefore, for example, chicken and turkey are allowed .
  2. The slaughter . Once the purity of the meat is confirmed, even the slaughtering must follow precise rules. First of all it must only be performed by a ritual butcher, the  schochet, a specially trained and licensed rabbi. The ritual slaughter requires that, respecting the animal, proceed to caress it, reassure it, usually blindfold it so that it is not frightened at the sight of the knife. The killing, by cutting the throat with a very sharp knife and a single movement, takes place without prior stunning and usually in a clean place, never in front of other specimens. This ensures that the animal quickly loses consciousness and bleeds quickly. Jugular, carotid, esophagus and trachea must be severed in one continuous cut. It is forbidden to slaughter an animal with its puppies on the same day. Failure of any of these criteria makes the animal’s flesh unclean.
  3. The control . Before being hung and dissected, the ritually slaughtered animal must be dead. The body, therefore, is subjected to bediqat , the control, confirming the absence of medical conditions or defects that would have caused its death within a year, which would make its flesh impure. The animal must therefore be devoid of treifot, a list of 70 physical defects that include various injuries, diseases and abnormalities whose presence makes the animal non-kosher. Of these, the Talmud provides 8: the claw of a wild beast, a bird, a raptor; perforation of an organ between the pharynx, brain membrane, heart and its aorta, gallbladder, inferior vena cava, abomasum, rumen, omasum, intestine, lung and trachea; the absence at birth of one of the lung lobes or feet; the absence of converging tendons in the thigh, liver or upper jaw; the separation of the membrane covering the spinal cord, regardless of whether the spine is broken or not; the crushing of one of the internal organs of an animal following a fall; tearing off most of the meat covering the rumen; the fracture, for example,
  4. Cleaning and cuts of meat. Parts of the animal that are considered impure, such as intestines and kidneys, are removed. Furthermore, the carcasses are cleaned of some veins, large arteries, tendons and the sciatic nerve: the ban on eating cuts of meat that include the latter dates back to the story of Jacob who, during a fight, was injured in this very nerve. and made lame. Some parts of the fat, once reserved for the service of sacrifices in the sanctuary in Jerusalem, are also removed. This is how, in compliance with the rules, the hindquarters of the cow should not be eaten. The cut point that is considered the last kosher point is the 13th rib of the animal, starting from the head. Excluding the rear, there are therefore non-kosher cuts such as shank, walnut, rump, tenderloin, sirloin, t-bone. And since these operations are very laborious and complex, often the hindquarters of the animals are sold to butchers who do not have to carry out the laborious purification. The remaining parts are then processed normally: on the market you can find all the possibilities, from steaks to roulades, from mince to cutlets. As long as they are kosher.
  5. Removal of blood . The remaining meat is then cleaned of all the remaining blood by immersing it in water, sprinkling it with coarse salt and finally rinsing it, for no less than 20 minutes. In fact, it is strictly forbidden to consume the blood, which contains the vitality of the animal. At the end of this operation, the more bleached meat is finally pure. An exception is made for organs such as the liver, heart and lungs, which although containing blood cannot be treated with this process. Their purification, therefore, takes place on an open flame, usually cooking them on the grill.
  6. Tools and environments . If the utensils for slaughtering or ritual preparation are not kosher from the start, the food prepared subsequently will also become impure. This is the reason why, usually, the environments and tools used are different. If this is not possible, some of the instruments, depending on the material, can be sterilized by immersion in boiling water or by using a blowtorch. More generally, however, in order to avoid such contamination, observant Jews usually have separate refrigerator compartments, dishes, cutlery, utensils, sinks and sponges.

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