Before I explain this I issue you a warning about myself. I have a virgin kitchen. It is never been cooked in. This is my choice of lifestyle and because I never learned how to cook properly and do not enjoy cleaning up dishes. So I buy prepared foods and have two microwaves. Yes, I know a microwave is not the best or healthiest form of heating or cooking.
The dictionary meaning of Kosher and the street use of the word Kosher are somewhat different. Kosher is spelled in Hebrew כשר .
The meaning of that word in Hebrew is fit; valid; proper; ability; proficiency; power; opportunity; to make something right; and to be right.
The Definition of Kosher in English is:
1. lawful or proper: allowed by law, or regarded as correct or proper
2. preparing or selling kosher food: preparing or selling foods that are fit and suitable under Jewish law
3. lawful or proper: allowed by law, or regarded as correct or proper
In slang usage in English Kosher is used to describe things that are qualified under the law. Such as "This action you will take is Kosher." Or "His actions are Kosher." Or "She went to the mikvah so now she is Kosher." Or "Do they do things Kosher?"
In Jewish religious law Kosher means according to Jewish Law this food is being served in a Kosher manner. The word Kosher only applies to food. The preparation of food, the serving of food, and the eating of food that is based on Jewish or Torah regulations. These regulations come from the Torah and from the Oral Law. Let us look at what the Torah says generally.
The first time Kosher food preparation is hinted at is in the Time of Noach. Remember your Sunday school training. The animals boarded the ark two by two except the clean animals which boarded 7 by 7.
In that Parasha upon the exit by the family of Noach HaShem gives him the 7 Noachide Laws. One of which gives Noach permission to eat animals, just not living animals. Prior to the flood Man did not have permission to eat animals. After the flood he was given permission since many negative actions of the generation of the flood required reincarnation into animals and plants that are eaten by animals and rocks and streams, etc. that provide nutrients for both the plants and animals. Man eats animals to provide a path to elevate the human souls when it is time for them to die and rise to a higher level.
The word Kosher as spelled above is not in the Torah at all. The first time Kosher is described in the Torah it is in a concealed way. It describes the serving by Abraham to the three men/angels who came to visit him after his Circumcision. It says he served them butter and milk and the calf he had prepared and set it before them. Then the Torah says he stood by them under the Tree and they ate.
I will explain below how this coded message applies to Kosher Food.
The next time the Torah refers to Kosher Food is in Chapter 23 Verse 19 of Exodus. In this Chapter, which is the Parasha of Mishpatim, says "The first of the first fruits of your land you shall bring into the house of HaShem (The Temple). You shall not boil a kid in its mother's milk."
This last phrase repeats in the Torah two additional times. This is very unusual since the Torah does not add additional words or letters. The second time the phrase occurs is Chapter 34 Verse 26. This chapter is describing the second set of tablets. It is an indication that the regulations are somewhat different than they were before the Sin of the Golden Calf.
The third time it appears is Deuteronomy Chapter 14 Verse 21. This section of the Torah also adds additional regulations regarding what is Kosher.
The Kabbalah explains this phrase “Do not boil a kid in its mother's milk” as “do not mix the essence of things that you put into your mouth." This is because Milk has the energy of Continuity, since Milk when it spoils becomes cheese or yogurt and when that spoils it becomes a different cheese or another product that people may eat. It never truly spoils although we may decide to throw it out because to us it is spoiled.
Meat is a different type of energy. Meat since it can not be eaten live has the energy of death. Death is a negative energy. Continuity is a positive energy. The Kosher regulations essentially say do not mix these two types of energy.
Kabbalah explains that the reason behind this “do not mix” has to do with the idea that human beings need to be balanced and mixing of energy makes maintaining balance more difficult.
Actually when we look at the Kosher regulations we find this “do not mix” as being only in one direction. The regulations are one must wait 4 to 6 hours after eating meat prior to eating milk products. It is also highly recommended that one brush one's teeth after eating meat and before eating milk products.
When one eats milk products one may eat meat with only a 5-10 minute delay and there is no recommendation regarding brushing one's teeth. In essence we do not want to contaminate the energy of continuity with the energy of death. While continuity will overcome the energy of death and so we do not have to wait the same length of time.
Also, what makes an animal and a fish kosher also supports the idea of “do not mix energy.” A fish must have two signs, at least two fins and scales. An animal must have cloven hoofs and chew its cud. What do these signs represent?
Chewing its cud represents Binding by Striking which is also what the scales on a fish represent. While cloven hoofs indicate a separation within the nature of the animal that keeps the two energies of continuity and death apart. This is also the idea of two fins indicating two types of energy in that animal. For your information an octopus having 8 legs has 8 types of energy.
Just as our exterior shows us our interior through the science of Face and Hand reading, animals also show their interior through their exterior.
There are many other regulations about the laws of Kashrut. All of them relate to energy transfer. When something is hot energy transfer is easier and faster and thus our concern about it must be greater. When things are cold (in a refrigerator) our concern can be less since energy transfer is slower. This is why we do not worry about putting milk on the same shelf in a refrigerator as we do a plate of left over meat. Although many people are told by their Rabbis to make sure they put these kinds of things on different shelves or preferably different refrigerators. This is “building a fence around the Torah.” I hope you understand and can learn to think for yourself.
Some of these regulations are as follows:
Keep two sets of dishes. This includes pots and pans. Some people add two more sets for Shabbat. Some people add 4 additional sets for a total of 8 dealing with Pesach and Shabbat of Pesach. Let us look at the idea of the dishes. If the dish is made of clay or ceramic then it is porous and the energy of even cold things will remain with the dish. If the dish is metal or glass it is not and can be transformed from Milk to Meat more easily. This is following energy transfer wisdom.
Do not cook food on Shabbat. Yet it is ok to keep things warm on a Bleck. This is because cooking does not take place below a certain level of temperature. Ask your Rabbi what is considered that level of temperature, just do not use that language as he will not understand you.
Cooking does not take place in the third vessel. On Shabbat if I put a tea bag into a cup and pour water into it that is hot it is considered cooking. Yet if I take the water from the heated pot and pour it into a cup (considered the second vessel) and then pour it into the cup with the tea bag it is the third vessel and not considered cooking. This relates to the idea of the Sefirot that has no connection to the third level below them.
In the Torah certain birds are mentioned as not Kosher and all other birds are kosher.
This is true of insects and especially locusts. There are 4 species of locusts mentioned. The Ashkenazi have forgotten which is the proper locust while the Sefardi living near the deserts did remember from the Oral Tradition. The Sefardi are allowed to eat this locust while the Ashkenazi are forbidden to learn from the Sefardi. Of course the Rabbis do not use this language.
Fish are not to be served on the same plate as meat and some build a fence and say fish courses are not to be on the table when meat is served. This means all fish dishes must be removed from the table. This is related to fish living its whole existence in water which is Chesed. Please see Pareve below.
A kosher animal that is killed in an unkosher manner is NOT KOSHER. There is meat served in modern Deli's called Kosher Style. This is not Kosher according to the Rabbis. See Heksher below.
What is the Kosher Manner?
According to modern science, the kosher animals have a different structure of arteries and veins in their brain case. A kosher animal looses its blood pressure in the brain when its neck arteries like the carotid artery is cut. This happens in less than 30 seconds and the animal becomes unconscious and then feels no pain and does not have time to manifest the drug adrenalin into its blood stream.
Here is a description by Wikipedia regarding Kosher Slaughtering.
The Hebrew term shechita (anglicized: Hebrew: shehitah, shehita, is the ritual slaughter of mammals and birds for food according to Jewish dietary laws (Deut. 12:21, Deut. 14:21, Num. 11:22). The animal must be killed "with respect and compassion" by a shochet (Hebrew: שוחטby a "ritual slaughterer"), a religious Jew who is duly licensed and trained. The act is performed by severing the trachea, esophagus, carotid arteries, jugular veins and vagus nerve in a swift action using an extremely sharp blade ("chalef") only by a qualified shochet. This results in a rapid drop in blood pressure in the brain and loss of consciousness. According to Jewish religious sources, the animal is now insensible to pain and exsanguinates in a prompt and precise action.  The animal can be in a number of positions; when the animal is lying on its back, this is referred to as shechita munachat; in a standing position it is known as shechita me'umedet. Before slaughtering, the animal must be healthy, uninjured,and viable.
If the hindquarters of kosher mammals are to be eaten by Jews, they must be porged  in accordance with a strict procedure – stripped of veins, chelev (caul fat and suet) and sinews. Because of the expense of porging and the skill required to properly separate out the forbidden parts, a large portion of the meat of kosher mammals slaughtered through shechita in the United States winds up on the non-kosher market. This is one of the explanations given for the High Cost of Kosher Beef and Fowl.
The animal must be kosher. For mammals, this is restricted to ruminants which have split hooves. For birds the issue is more complicated. Biblically, all birds not specifically excluded in Deuteronomy 14:12–18 are permitted,  but according to rabbinical law, only birds with a tradition of being eaten are allowed.  The kosher animal cannot be shot dead by a hunter, or pollaxed, which had been common for centuries, or stunned, as is common practice in modern animal slaughter since the first half of the twentieth century, as it is considered that this would injure the animal rendering the shechita invalid, as the meat would be treifa (non-Kosher).  After shechita of mammals the shochet must feel the area around the lungs for scabbing, adhesions or other lesions, which would render the animal not kosher.
Source of Kosher Meat and Slaughtering
The Torah (Deut. 12:21) states that sheep and cattle should be slaughtered 'as I have commanded thee' but nowhere in the Torah (Five books of Moses) are any of the practices of schechita described. Instead, they have been handed down in Judaism's traditional Oral Torah, and codified in halakha in various sources, most notably the canonical codex of laws Shulchan Aruch.
Duties of the Sochet
To fulfill the basic law of shechita, the majority of both the trachea and esophagus (windpipe and food pipe) of a mammal, or the majority of either one of these in the case of birds, must be incised with a back and forth motion without violating one of the five major prohibited techniques, or various more detailed rules. The five major forbidden techniques include: pressing, pausing, tearing, piercing, or covering. A shochet must have studied these laws and demonstrate a thorough understanding of them, as well as have been carefully trained, before he is allowed to 'shekht' meat unaided.
Chanoch's CommentaryI have personally witnessed the kosher slaughter through various men who do not normally do the slaughtering but have been trained in its knowledge. These are city dwellers in Los Angeles. They have been hired to slaughter chickens for Kapporot just prior to Yom Kippur.
It is hard to believe that the chickens lined up to be slaughtered as if they knew this is the right thing for them. It is hard to believe that these men called Sochets could be trained to look for disease in the birds to determine if they were Kosher or not. And it is also hard to believe that these men were sensitive to the souls of the birds actually as well. Do not believe what I say go to see it and experience it for your self.
דרסה Derasah (pressing) - The knife must be drawn across the throat by forward/backward movements, not by hacking or pressing. Any undue pressure renders the animal unkosher. Derasah is the forbidden action that occurs when the shochet pushes the knife into the animal's throat, chops rather than slices, or positions the animal improperly so that either its head presses down on the blade as it expires or the shochet must push the knife into the throat against the force of gravity. There are those  who feel that it is forbidden to have the animal in an upright position during shechita due to the prohibition of derasah (pressing). They feel that the animal must be on its back, lying on its side, suspended upside down by a rope or chain, or – as is done in most commercial slaughter houses – placed in a barrel-like pen that restrains the animal's limbs while it is turned on its back for slaughter. However, an expert shochet can slaughter the animal while it is upright without pressing the knife. This method is employed in most smaller operations in America.
שהייה Shehiyah (delay or pausing) - A pause of hesitation during the incision of even a moment makes the animal's flesh unkosher. The knife must move in an uninterrupted sweep. Shehiyah occurs if the shochet accidentally stops the slaughtering process after either the trachea or esophagus has been cut, but before they have been cut the majority of the way through. Pausing can happen accidentally if muscle contractions in the animal's neck pull one of these organs out of contact with the blade. The latter case is especially common in turkeys.
חלדה Haladah (digging or burying) - The knife must be drawn over the throat so that it is visible while shechita is being performed. It must not be stabbed into the neck or buried by fur, hide, or feathers in the case of a bird. Haladah occurs if the shochet either accidentally cuts into the animal's throat so deeply that the entire width of the knife disappears in the wound, uses a knife that is too short so that the end disappears in the wound, or if a foreign object falls over the knife so the shochet loses sight of the incision.
הגרמה Hagramah (slipping) - The limits within which the knife may be applied are from the large ring in the windpipe to the top of the upper lobe of the lung when it is inflated, and corresponding to the length of the pharynx. Slaughtering above or below these limits renders the meat unkosher.
עיקור Iqqur (tearing) - If either the esophagus or the trachea is torn during the shechita incision the carcass is rendered unkosher and cannot be eaten by Jews. Iqqur occurs if the shochet accidentally uses a chalaf with an imperfection on the blade, such as a scratch or nick, that causes a section of blade to be lower than the surface of the blade.
Breaching any of these five rules renders the animal nevelah; the animal is regarded in Jewish law as if it were carrion.
Giving of the Gifts
Once the animal has been checked and found to be kosher, it is a Mitzvah for the shochet to give the foreleg, cheeks, and abomasum to a Kohen. Beit Din -in terms of the root of the obligation, has the Halachic authority to excommunicate a shochet who refuses to perform this Mitzvah. In any case, it is desired that the shochet himself refuse to perform the shechita unless the animal's owner expresses his agreement to give the gifts.
The Rishonim point out the Shochet cannot claim that since the animal does not belong to him, he cannot give the gifts without the owner's consent. On the contrary, since the average shochet is reputed to be well versed and knowledgeable in the laws of Shechitah ("Dinnei Shechita"), Beith Din relies on him to withhold his shechita so long as the owner refuses to give the gifts.
The obligation of giving the gifts lay upon the Shochet to separate the parts due to the Kohanim. Apparently, the reasoning is that since the average Shochet is a "Friend", since he completed the prerequisite of understanding the (complex) laws of Shechita and Bedikah. It is assumed that he -as well- is knowledgeable in the details of the laws of giving the gifts, and will not put the Mitzvah aside. This, however, is not the case with the animal's owner, since the average owner is an Am ha-aretz not wholly knowledgeable in the laws of the gifts -and procrastinates in completing the Mitzvah.
The animal's blood may not be collected in a bowl, a pit, or a body of water, as these resemble ancient forms of idol worship. If the shochet accidentally slaughters with a knife dedicated to idol worship, he must remove an amount of meat equivalent to the value of the knife and destroy it. If he slaughtered with such a knife on purpose, the animal is forbidden as not kosher. It is forbidden to slaughter an animal in front of other animals, or to slaughter an animal and its young on the same day, even separately. This is forbidden no matter how far away the animals are from each other. An animal's "young" is defined as either its own offspring, or another animal that follows it around, even if of another species.
The knife used for shechita is called a hallaf by Ashkenazim or a sakin (Hebrew: סכין) by all Jews. By biblical law the knife may be made from anything not attached directly or indirectly to the ground and capable of being sharpened and polished to the necessary level of sharpness and smoothness required for shechita. The Minhag now is to use a metal knife.
The knife must be minimally 1.5 or 2 times as long as the animal's neck is wide, depending on the species of animal and the number of strokes needed to slaughter the animal, but not so long that the weight of the knife exceeds the weight of the animal's head. If the knife is too large, it is assumed to cause pressing. The knife must not have a point. It is feared a point may slip into the wound during slaughter and cause piercing. The blade may also not be serrated, as serrations cause tearing.
The blade may not have imperfections in it. All blades are assumed by Jewish law to be imperfect, so the knife must be checked before each slaughter session. The shochet must run his fingernail up and down both sides of the blade and on the cutting edge to determine if he can feel any imperfections. He then uses a number of increasingly fine abrasive stones to sharpen and polish the blade until it is perfectly sharp and smooth. After the slaughter, the shochet must check the knife again in the same way to be certain the first inspection was properly done, and to ensure the blade was not damaged during shechita. If the blade is found to be damaged, the meat may not be eaten by Jews. If the blade falls or is lost before the second check is done, the first inspection is relied on and the meat is permitted.
The Minhag is for a Sochet to grow the nail on his little finger long (approximately a ¼ inch) so that he can run the knife over the nail of the little finger and see it vibrate if there is a scratch on the knife. The scratch on the knife is deemed to have caused the animal pain which renders it Not Kosher.
In previous centuries the hallaf was made of forged steel, which was not reflective and was difficult to make both smooth and sharp. The Baal Shem Tov, fearing that Sabbateans were scratching the knives in a way not detectable by normal people, introduced the Hasidische Hallaf. The Hasidische Hallaf differs from the previously used knife in that it was made from molten steel and polished to a mirror gloss in which scratches could be seen as well as felt. The new knife was controversial and was one of four reasons listed in the Brody Cherem for the excommunication of the Chassidim.
Today the Hasidische Hallaf is the only commercially available knife for shechita and is universally accepted.
An animal must be checked again after it has been shekhted to see if there were any internal injuries that would have rendered the animal unhealthy before the slaughter, but were simply not visible because they were internal. The inspector must check certain organs, such as the lungs, for any scarring which would render the animal treif (not kosher).
Glatt means "smooth" in German and Yiddish. In the context of kosher meat, it refers to the smoothness, or lack of blemish, in the internal organs of the animal. In the case of a scab or lesion on a cow’s lungs specifically, there is debate between Ashkenazic customs and Sephardic customs. Ashkenazic Jews hold that if the patch can be removed (there are various methods of removing the patch and not all of them are acceptable even according to the Ashkenazic custom) and the lungs are still airtight (a process that is tested by filling the lungs with air and then submerging them in water and looking for escaping air) then the animal is still kosher, while Sephardic Jews hold that if there is any sort of scabbing or lesion on the lungs, then the animal is not kosher. “Glatt” meat would literally mean that the animal has passed the stringent Sephardic requirements.
PorgingAfter the animal has been thoroughly inspected, there are still steps that have to be taken before the animal can be sold as kosher – it has to be stripped of veins, chelev (caul fat and suet) and sinews. The Torah prohibits the eating of certain fats and organs, such as the kidneys and intestines, so they must be removed from the animal. These fats are typically known as chelev. There is also a biblical prohibition against eating the sciatic nerve (gid hanasheh), so that, it also is removed.
The removal of the chelev and the gid hanasheh, called nikkur, is considered complicated and tedious, and hence labor intensive, and even more specialized training is necessary to perform the act properly. While the small amounts of chelev in the front half of the animal are relatively easy to remove, the back half of the animal is far more complicated, and it is where the sciatic nerve is located.
In countries such as the United States, where there exists a large nonkosher meat market, the hindquarters of the animal (where many of these forbidden meats are located) is sold to Gentiles so as to simplify the process. This tradition goes back for centuries where local Muslims accept meat slaughtered by Jews as consumable; however, the custom was not universal throughout the Muslim world, and some Muslims (particularly on the Indian subcontinent) did not accept these hindquarters as halal. In Israel, on the other hand, specially trained men are hired to prepare the hindquarters for sale as kosher.
The blood must also be removed from the meat, as there is a biblical prohibition against the eating of blood as well. (Gen 9:4, Lev 17:10–14, Deut 12:23–24) All large arteries and veins are removed, as well as any bruised meat or coagulated blood. Then the meat has to be purged of all remaining blood (kashering). The process is generally done by letting the meat soak for around 30 minutes, covering it with salt and then allowing it to drain. In Sephardi traditions, one generally leaves the salt on for a full hour and then rinses the meat thoroughly. The meat is then considered kashered. However, if the meat has been left for more than three days after being slaughtered without being kashered, then the blood is considered to have “set” in the meat, and it is no longer salvageable to eat except when prepared through broiling with appropriate drainage.
The liver of an animal is considered extremely difficult to Kasher and must be broiled with the appropriate drainage. This is the source of the famous “chopped liver”.
Significance in Jewish Tradition
The laws of shechita are not given in the text of the Torah. Rather, the Torah only writes that the slaughter shall be "as I have instructed you." (Deut. 12:21) In Orthodox Judaism this is often cited as one proof that Moses received an Oral Torah along with the text.
It is also a source of dispute with the Karaites since they only accept the oral law that is specified in this manner from the Torah. If the Torah not not say this type of language regarding a Mitzvah then the Karaites assume there is no oral law associated with that Mitzvah.
General Description of Controversy
The practices of handling, restraining and unstunned slaughter has been criticized by, among others, animal welfare organizations such as the Compassion in World Farming. The UK Farm Animal Welfare Council said that the method by which Kosher and Halal meat is produced causes "significant pain and distress" to animals and should be banned. According to FAWC it can take up to two minutes for cattle to bleed to death. Compassion in World Farming also supported the recommendation saying "We believe that the law must be changed to require all animals to be stunned before slaughter." The UK government opted not to follow FAWC's recommendations after pressure from religious leaders. The Federation of Veterinarians of Europe has issued a position paper on slaughter without prior stunning, calling it "unacceptable."
Nick Cohen, writing for the New Statesman, discusses research papers collected by Compassion in World Farming which indicate that the animal suffers pain during and after the process. This has led to prohibitions against unstunned slaughter in some countries.
These arguments are rejected by the Jewish community, that argue that the method is humane and that criticism is at least partially motivated by anti-Semitism. A Knesset committee announced (January, 2012) that it would call on European parliaments and the European Union to put a stop to attempts to outlaw kosher slaughter. "The pretext [for this legislation] is preventing cruelty to animals or animal rights – but there is sometimes an element of anti-Semitism and there is a hidden message that Jews are cruel to animals," said Committee Chair MK Danny Danon (member of the Likud political party).
While the campaign against shechita which started around 1840 is still being pursued today, the Jewish community feels that a lot of the science is bogus, and that it is painful is a popular myth, and there is ample scientific evidence to the contrary. Please see the discussion above regarding modern science.
Temple Grandin, a functioning autistic sensitive to animal pain and a leading designer of animal handling systems gives the various researchers' times to lose consciousness. She has indicated that Kosher Ritual does not cause pain to the animal.
Efforts to Improve Conditions in Shechita Slaughterhouses
Temple Grandin is opposed to shackling and hoisting as a method of handling animals and wrote, on visiting a shechita slaughterhouse, "I will never forget having nightmares after visiting the now defunct Spencer Foods plant in Spencer, Iowa fifteen years ago. Employees wearing football helmets attached a nose tong to the nose of a writhing beast suspended by a chain wrapped around one back leg. Each terrified animal was forced with an electric prod to run into a small stall which had a slick floor on a forty-five degree angle. This caused the animal to slip and fall so that workers could attach the chain to its rear leg [in order to raise it into the air]. As I watched this nightmare, I thought, 'This should not be happening in a civilized society.' In my diary I wrote, 'If hell exists, I am in it.' I vowed that I would replace the plant from hell with a kinder and gentler system."Efforts are made to improve the techniques used in slaughterhouses. Temple Grandin has worked closely with Jewish slaughterers to design handling systems for cattle, and has said: "When the cut is done correctly, the animal appears not to feel it. From an animal welfare standpoint, the major concern during ritual slaughter are the stressful and cruel methods of restraint (holding) that are used in some plants." When shackling and hoisting is used, it is recommended that cattle not be hoisted clear of the floor until they have had time to bleed out. So the criticism also involves in what manner the equipment is utilized.
A significant amount of Kosher Meat comes from plants in South America primarily Argentina that uses the shackling and hoisting method. There are some Rabbis that feel this causes pain to the animal and the meat should not be considered Kosher. These plant owners say they are unable to change the method due to cost and other considerations. They do make sure that the animal has time to bleed out prior to being lifted off of the floor.
Agriprocessors ControversyThe prohibition of stunning and the treatment of the slaughtered animal expressed in shechita law limits the extent to which Jewish slaughterhouses can industrialize their procedures. The most industrialized attempt at a kosher slaughterhouse, Agriprocessors of Postville, Iowa, became the center of controversy in 2004, after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals released a gruesome undercover video of cattle struggling to their feet with their tracheas and esophagi ripped out after shechita. Some of the cattle actually got up and stood for a minute or so after being dumped from the rotating pen. Dr. Temple Grandin, told Mason City, Iowa's Globe Gazette, "I thought it was the most disgusting thing I'd ever seen. I couldn't believe it. I've been in at least 30 other kosher slaughter plants, and I had never ever seen that kind of procedure done before. … I've seen kosher slaughter really done right, so the problem here is not kosher slaughter. The problem here is a plant that is doing everything wrong that they can do wrong."
Jonathan Safran Foer, a Jewish vegetarian, narrated the short documentary film entitled "If This Is Kosher...," which records what he considers abuses within the kosher meat industry.
In 2008 Agriprocessors was raided by the Immigration Department and deported the majority of their workers. This shut down the plant had forced Kosher Meat to be slaughtered more in other countries like Argentina. This has led to a discussion with in the Kosher Slaughter Industry regarding inappropriate treatment of employees that produce Kosher Meat that this inappropriate treatment should render the meat slaughtered with badly treated employees as treif or not kosher. A Hechsher was started in the Conservative movement to be added to other Hechshers that certify the working conditions of that plant. The jury is still out if this will be accepted by the consuming public since it supposedly raises the cost of meat.
The other side of the argument is that to obtain less expensive meat at the “expense” of treating workers badly does impact the meat in some way and it should not be put into a human being due to the idea that we are what we eat.
Please see Hechsher below
At one time a woman did all her family’s preparation in her own kitchen and it was obvious that pig’s feet, and fish without scales and fins were not kosher, and milk which came from a cow and was made into cheese was kosher.
However, there has been a revolution in the past few decades in American eating. Almost 90 percent of our food is now processed before reaching our kitchens. With synthetic meats and exotic food additives, artificial pig’s feet could be kosher, whereas the ice cream might not be.
These developments in the food industry have been paralleled by the growth of kosher certification organizations formed to assure consumers that appropriately processed foods can be bought with confidence.Here is a link to different certification marks.
History of Kosher Certifications
As early as 1660, a Jew from Portugal applied for a license to sell kosher meat in New Amsterdam. The first recorded complaint was in 1771 against the Shochet Moshe. In 1774, the widow, Hetty Hays, complained that her shochtim - (ritual slaughterer) was selling non-kosher meat. This led to the first court license revocation against a kosher butcher in 1796. In the U.S., the kosher certifying agencies did not start until the 1920's and 1930's, but their development can be traced back over 200 years. The need for kosher supervision in the United States dates back to Colonial times.
As Jewish communities developed in the United States, they originally followed the European pattern of having community appointed shochtim. By this method, the shochet could easily be removed if he did not follow the strict guidelines set down by the community leaders. This method changed drastically in 1813, when the schochet, Avraham Jacobs, became the first independent schochet in the United States. He was followed by many more. Unfortunately, this change led to a rapid decline in the standard of kosher meat.
In 1863, a group of laymen and shochtim got together to try to form a kashrus organization that could control this situation. They were unsuccessful. It was not until 1897 that the shochtim themselves banded together to form a union called "Meleches Hakodesh." Their goal was to improve kashrus standards, as well as the wages of shochtim.
By 1918, kosher products started finding their way into the American market. Abraham Goldstein, a chemist, was highly instrumental in both importing these products as well as in convincing domestic companies to become certified kosher.
In 1924, the Union of Orthodox Rabbis (O/U), which had been established in 1892, decided to enter the field of kashrus. Mr. Goldstein was appointed as its first director. During the past 50 years, as more and more products are prepared in company plants and not in private kitchens, the "O/U" has been active as a non-profit organization in the kosher certification of these products. Mr. Goldstein continued to head the O/U from 1924 until 1935. Feeling a need for another certifying agency, he started the O/K Laboratories. Today, the O/U, headed by Rabbi Menachem Genack, and the O/K, headed by Rabbi Don Yoel Levy, reliably certify many thousands of products and ingredients that we have become accustomed to using daily.
As the complexity of manufacturing processes and the need for kosher certification has increased, so has the number of agencies and individuals interested in meeting this need. This has led to the rise of newer certifying agencies, such as VHM, the Chaf K, Kehilloh, Star K and others. Furthermore, individual rabbis have entered this field, often using their own kosher symbol or even just a plain "K" to designate a product's kosher status.
This has caused a great deal of confusion. When there were only two or three certifying agencies, it was easy for consumers to judge their reliability. But today, it may take a great deal of detective work to ascertain the standard that a particular rabbi is using. Consequently, many people prefer to rely on only the well-known certifying agencies, rather than risk the chance that a product may not meet their personal standard of kashrus.
It has been estimated that approximately one third of all shelf products in supermarkets are certified kosher. This makes the kosher industry in the U.S. a 30 billion dollars a year business. Although only a relatively small amount of this is dedicated strictly toward the kosher consumer (about $2 billion), the interest in kosher food is rapidly growing. Some adhere to kosher laws from conviction, such as seventh day Adventists, Muslims, and vegetarians. However most of the interest comes from people who feel that the kosher certification is their best guarantee that the products and its ingredients are being watched carefully and properly. In the U.S. alone, there appear to be at least 5 million people who buy products based on their being kosher.
A food manufacturer obtains kosher certification usually by requesting it. The reasons for the request can vary from the company's own desire to produce a kosher product to appeals from industrial customers or consumers. Sometimes company "A" requests supervision, and in the course of the investigation of its ingredients it becomes clear that Company "B's products will also require certification. Some certifying organizations solicit companies. Others, such as the O/U, provide certification only upon application by a food manufacturer.
Once contact with a certifying agency is made, the detective work begins. The manufacturer must supply a complete, detailed list of every ingredient in the product, including preservatives, release agents, stabilizers or other inert ingredients. In addition, every step in the manufacturing process, every cleansing agent used on the equipment and all other products produced on the same premises require close investigation and supervision. The certifying agency must track down each ingredient to its ultimate source. If, for instance, the ingredient is meat or a meat by-product, the item cannot be kosher unless the meat source itself is strictly kosher. Wine and wine by-products, cheese, and some dairy by-products (such as whey) present the same problem. Any oil used in the manufacture of foodstuffs has to be traced back to the oil processor. Many vegetable oils are produced in machinery that is also used to process animal fats and oils. The Federal Food and Drug Administration acknowledge that "100 percent vegetable oil" may in fact have a percentage of animal fat in some batches. In such a case, of course, the oil is not recommended.
Some ingredients with innocuous sounding names need special attention. "Natural colors" have been known to be derived from insects, "softeners" from whale oil, and "artificial flavors" from cats. Therefore, the supervising agency must conduct a complete and intense investigation into the origin of all the ingredients.
The process by which ingredients are produced must also be carefully checked. In fact, it is necessary to check the processing locations to verify that hygienic standards are not so lax as to allow insects or worms to contaminate the food product. The results of all these investigations are forwarded to the rabbinic authority (or board) of the supervising agency. If changes in ingredients or processes are required, the manufacturer must make the changes before the agency will do further work.
Once all is acceptable, the rabbinic authority will determine the amount of on-plant supervision necessary. This information is written into a contract and then sent to the manufacturer. The contract also specifies that the manufacturer agrees to make no changes of ingredients or suppliers without prior written consent of the agency. The actual on-site inspector (mashgiach) will verify that the company is complying with the contract.
Should the manufacturer cease to comply with the contract, the agency either will see that the necessary changes are made or it will revoke its certification. Because organizations like the O/U or Chaf-K have registered service marks, unauthorized printing of these symbols on labels is a violation of Federal law. These certifying agencies have legal redress against possible abuse by manufacturers of their symbols. Some states have laws against falsely advertising that a product is kosher. Also, when reliable certifying agencies know that a particular product will no longer be under their supervision, they will publicize that fact widely. However, these safeguards are not enforceable when only the letter K is used for kosher certification. The cost of certification to the manufacturer is minimal. For non-profit agencies, cost depends on the amount of on-site work. Agencies making a profit might have a minimum annual charge and fees depending on the gross annual sales of the product. The individual supervisor (mashgiach) is typically paid for each visit he makes to the plant (He usually receives less per visit than an auto mechanic makes per hour). The mashgiach is paid by the certifying agency and not by the manufacturer. There is usually no increase in the price of the product due to its kosher certification, because the cost of certification is generally met by increased sales. The O/U reports that in over 45 years, fewer than 12 companies discontinued their certification programs because sales did not increase. Thus, kosher supervision benefits the manufacturer and the consumer, who can be confident that foods may be consumed without violating the kosher standards.
Issues with Certifications
Now that I have given you the promotion of the certifications statements above let me give you knowledge of the issues that make the certifications suspect.
A manufacturer or Processor may place a simple K mark on their products. This tells the consuming public that the manufacturer certifies its products as kosher yet there is no outside supervision. One company that does this is Yoplait Yogurt. It is not that their product is not kosher it is that it may be kosher but a certain batch may use a component that might have some animal products in it. There is just no outside supervision and a consumer can have no confidence that the manufacturer is knowledgeable about what makes something Kosher.
Today, a Hechsher mark is copyrighted by a Rabbi. Then it is up to that Rabbi to market his service to food processors and manufacturers. There is no standard as to what is the purpose of this mark. For example in Los Angeles there is a Rabbi who promotes his mark as a way to bring Kosher food to the Non Jewish World. He admits that he allows certain leniencies since most of his “customers” are non Jews. His Mark may not be accepted by more conservative religious people and if a mother finds that her child's friend's mother accepts that mark into her kitchen she may and it happens quite frequently that she will forbid her child from eating at his friends. This leads to issues and separation among friends. In essence there is different levels of koshering values within a Jewish community.
This has led to one religious authority to support the establishment of a mark that is approved by that religious authority. Therefore they do not approve of any hechsher mark that is from a Rabbi that is not of their religious authority. This becomes an economic and a political tool of control.
The Marks are paid for by the manufacturer or processor not the community. This can lead to the economic pressure to accept a less stringent practice by a manufacturer to be overlooked through the paying of a bribe.
This also allows rumors to be started by the Rabbis of a mark to obtain “new” business. This has happened 4 times in the Los Angeles area in the last 20 years. One example is the Noah's Bagel Brand. The rumor was started that Noah's Mark was not stringent enough. This led the company which had just been sold to a non Jew to not know what to do regarding the mark. To leave it in the original mark or change it to a more prominent mark. The company changed to the more prominent mark and within 6 months dropped the mark and started to serve non kosher meat sandwiches in their stores while maintaining the K mark on their products that were kosher.
The only solution to these issues is for the consumer to become educated and keep a discerning eye upon the marks that he accepts. I will give you an example. Rabbi Berg did not feel like a particular pareve chocolate desert that was being served at an affair by a caterer. The person in Rabbi Berg's organization knew that this was one of his favorite desserts. She started a personal investigation and discovered that the product was supplied was not truly Kosher. This was unknown to the caterer yet the only thing that “saved" this Kabbalists from eating something non kosher for the first time in his life (over 60 years) was his intuition. He did want the dessert because he loved it but his intuition told him to not eat it this one time.
The problem is that most people do not have this strong a connection to their intuition to protect themselves from unscrupulous people. The solution is for each person to become knowledgeable about what is Kosher and what is treif.
Meaning of Pareve
Pareve means neither meat or milk. It is a third category. Examples are fish and eggs. Meat can be served with pareve foods. Milk can be served with pareve foods. Yet there are regulations regarding the serving of certain pareve foods. This is primarily on fish and was mentioned above.
It has become necessary for Hechsher marks to add a Pareve designation along with the dairy and Pesach designation as well.
Health Considerations and Justifications
In the recent period there have been put forth many health justifications for the laws of Kashrut other than the energy justifications mentioned above. None of these justifications are valid reasons for keeping kosher. They may be valid or they may not but they are not a reason to choose to keep Kosher.
An example of this type of reasoning is to say that in olden days when wooden dishes were used it was healthier to stay away from pigs since they could develop a certain disease, and that disease would be passed on by the wooden dishes.
HaShem has his reasons and there are times when we may not look to physical justifications for HaShem's reasons.
Halal and Kosher Differences
Moslems consider Kosher to be a subset of Halal which is what they call food fit for human consumption. Jews consider the Moslem methods to not be Kosher. Here are the differences:
Moslems forbid alcohol to be given to the animal, Jews consider this Kosher.
Prior to the slaughter Moslem are required to invoke the Name of Allah. Jews are only required to mention the Name of God at least once per day.
Jews consider the front of the animal as kosher and the hind part takes additional processing which is very time consuming. The Moslem considers the whole animal Halal.
Ducks, hens, geese, and rabbits are called Halal in Islam, while they are prohibited in Judaism.
Why do Christians not eat Kosher?
The Torah teaches that certain foods are Kosher. The followers of the man from Nazareth accept the Bible / Torah as their own. Why do they not eat Kosher?
One of the disciples of the man from Nazareth had a dream that is recorded in the new testament. If this dream is interpreted according to Jewish sources its meaning is not literal. The church accepted its literal meaning. You decide for yourself here.
The dream was the picture of a picnic blanket filled with all kinds of food spelling food in various types of containers. Then a voice came out from “Heaven” and said “Do not make profane and impure what I have created pure.
The literal interpretation by the church says we no longer have to keep the laws of Kashrut.
The Jews say that the Torah says do not follow anyone that attempts to change a law stated in the Torah.
The Jews interpret this dream as referring to the outreach that was going on in the mind of the dicisple at that time. The Jews say that it refers to “do not make impure the people that I have created pure. Reach out to the other nations to teach them Torah and bring them into the fold as Benai Noach. The children of Noach. The dream is using a metaphor of food for people; it does not apply as food.
Transitioning to becoming a Kosher Food Consumer
It is said that one can not learn the laws of Kashrut without having been raised in a Kosher Home.
Based on the above it is recommended that all of my students decide to transition to keeping a Kosher diet. This process is not done overnight or quickly. It takes time and adjustments.The first step is to stop ordering cheese burgers. This is how I converted to eating Kosher.
The Kosher Laws are for man's benefit that he not mix the different energies. Please consider following this transition and consume only food in a Kosher Manner.
One of the first steps that one can take relates to food that is grown in Israel. Start to substitute food from Israel for Food from America. Not everything but a few items. Hummus etc. Then make sure that it has a heksher mark and educate yourself about Maaser of the produce. Make sure the heckshers you use require this. Read below about this a little bit and also realize that the year 2014 and 2015 which is the year 5775 is a Shemitta Year. It is a good year to make some additional changes in the Kashrut of your diet and kitchen.
Here is one more point about tithing the Hebrew language and Kashrut which we will discuss in a few weeks.. The word 'Aser (You shall tithe), can be split into two words (ע' שר). The letter/word Ayin has a gematria of 70. The word Sar means Angelic Chieftain. Thus Aser translates and reads, "70 angels".
The Torah tells the Children of Israel that they are to receive the Land as a tithing result as explained now. This comes to tell us that that you will take the Ma'aser from them (one tenth of them = 7), but on account of this, you are obligated to separate one tenth of your produce. It is important, when eating produce that comes from the Land of Israel, to ensure that the Ma'aser was separated correctly. The effect of not doing this will forfeit your right to the Land. We will discuss this during our class on "What is Kosher".
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