What is Kosher Food. What Makes Certain Foods Kosher.
Getting clued up on kosher
What is kosher food? And what makes certain foods kosher?
To understand the existence of kosher foods and to answer these questions, you first need to understand the culture behind these foods – and, the people who eat them!
A way of life
Written in these teachings are laws that provide comprehensive information related to foods that are either permitted or forbidden as a guide for those who follow the legislation. These foods include kosher foods, which comes from the Hebrew law called “Kashrus”, which means suitable and/or pure and, thus, fit for consumption1.
There are different aspects of Kashrus that need to be considered, which include laws relating to the consumption of meat, fowl/poultry, dairy and their derivatives, as well as eggs, fish, fruit, vegetables, cereals and beverages2.
Meat and dairy products
When it comes to meat, the laws of the Torah state that only meat obtained from animals with cloven hooves and that chew the cud may be eaten. If only one of these conditions are met in any animal, for example a camel, rabbit or pig, that meat is forbidden. Those that meet both criteria are cattle, sheep, goats and springbok.
Another condition that involves meat applies, which relates to the slaughtering of the animal. Because the Jewish law prohibits anyone from causing pain to animals, the animal must be killed in the most effective way such that death occurs as immediately as possible.
Specialised slaughterhouses are often needed, where following the death of the animal, the butchers have to remove certains parts, like pieces of fat and particular veins, after which the meat is soaked, the blood drawn out and then salted, ready for packaging to be eaten.
Milk can be obtained from any kosher animal, but it is prohibited to consume dairy that contains non-kosher products, and the law forbids the consumption of dairy and meat or animal products (including fowl and poultry) in the same dish. For example, cheese made with animal fat, pre-processed foods containing whey, and bread containing dairy are considered unfit for consumption.
Bread is a special case. In many cultures, it is typically made with dairy products, however, because bread is often eaten at most meals in the Jewish community, it is strongly advised to eat only bread made without dairy products so at to prevent the consumption of dairy and meat in one meal3.
Fowl/poultry and their derivatives
Only goose, duck, chicken and turkey are considered suitable, and thus are the only poultry allowed to be eaten. These animals must also be slaughtered and prepared in the manner that abides by the kosher law.
Eggs from these animals may also be eaten, given that they do not contain any blood, which means each egg must be inspected individually before it is cooked or consumed4.
Vegetables, fruit and grains
When in their purest form, these foods are considered pure and fit for consumption. You can obtain them from the soil, they’re plant-based or they grow on trees. One exception is those that are prone to insect infestation; insects themselves are not kosher and so fruit, vegetables and grains need to be thoroughly checked before they are eaten – some more thoroughly than others as insects are able to inhabit the small, intricate areas of some very leafy or complex vegetables and so should either be avoided or carefully inspected5.
It is also advised to obtain your produce from kosher farmers as there are certain laws that prohibit the growth and harvesting of multiple species in the same field or vineyard.
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Wine and beverages
Fermentation of the grapes as well as the bottling process comes into play, too. Only enzymes obtained from kosher sources may be used in the fermentation process while all the instruments used during the process of harvesting, manufacturing and bottling must be cleansed in a certain way and under supervision6,7.
The difficulties that the Jewish peoplehood face in abiding by these laws is compounded by modernisation. The threat of the food industry on these teachings that have been withheld for thousands of years is ever increasing as there is a high risk of contamination through the standardization of readily available pre-processed ingredients.
To maintain a standard of living that continues to embody the civil law of Kashrus, it has become increasingly necessary for those eating kosher foods to seek out trusted, certified kosher food sources and brands, while steering away completely from questionable commercial sources and untrusted manufacturers8,9.
Once a trusted kosher brand or food source is found – it’s a keeper!
- Pond, W., et al. Religious Foods: Jewish and Muslim Laws. Encyclopedia of Animal Science – (Two-Volume Set). 2018.
- Buckser, A. Keeping kosher: Eating and social identity among the Jews of Denmark. Ethnology. 1999. 38(3):191–209.
- Lever, J., & Fischer, J. Religion, regulation, consumption: Globalising kosher and halal markets.
- Worldwide Kosher Certification
- Eliasi, J., & Dwyer, J. Kosher and Halal: Religious observances affecting dietary intakes. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2002. 102(7):911-3.
- The Badatz Igud Rabbonim Kosher certification
- Fischer, J. Keeping enzymes kosher. Science & Society. 2015.
- Della Corte, V., et al. Ethical food and the kosher certification: a literature review. British Food Journal. 2017. 120(10).
- Rahim, F., et al. Halal And Kosher Marketing Strategie. Journal of Islamic Management Studies. 2017. 1(1).