Kosher Meats – What is Kosher and Why?
There is a wide range of meat producing animals that are considered kosher. In the most basic interpretation an animal is kosher if it is cloven hoofed and chews its cud. That would mean that cows, deer, and goats are all candidates to produce kosher meats. It also means that some cloven hoofed animals such as pigs are not because they do not chew their cud. Pigs are also considered “impure” and therefore are never kosher. Another non kosher meat producing animals is the rabbit. The dictates of “land animals” is very clear in the Kashrut but there is a little more room for error in regards to other animals.
While the Kashrut is a little vague on which birds are kosher, the Deuteronomic code specifies certain prohibited “flying animals”. On this list are birds of prey, fish eating birds and bats (technically mammals). Fowl are considered kosher out of tradition since they are not specifically mentioned in any text. By using those guidelines chicken and turkey butchered in a kosher way are some of the most popular kosher meats. Regardless of whether the animal in question is a “land beast” or fowl the rules for slaughtering are very specific.
To be considered kosher the animals must be raised in a humane and pain free environment and fed what they would naturally consume. They must be healthy when slaughtered and free from all hidden ailments. The process of slaughtering is overseen by a kosher butcher and done with a special, very sharp and nick free knife. The animal’s neck is cut to a specific depth to ensure that the carotid artery is cut to ensure a quick and humane death. In fact, some non Jews will seek out kosher meat for this reason. For them, purchasing kosher meats is synonymous with eating cruelty free.
Another one of the kosher meats is fish. Eating fish is a little tricky and there are many rules. The fish must have both fins and scales. Leviticus states that anything residing in the waters without fins or scales is filthy and non kosher. There are also specifics about the type of fins. Without going into a science lesson on fin type, basically if a fin can be removed without damaging the skin it is acceptable. If the fin pulls off part of the skin that fish is non kosher. Eating fish, fowl and other meats can all be kosher as long as the proper restrictions are followed.
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