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What is kosher meat?

by Rabbi Mendy Hecht


Library » Mitzvot » Kosher » About | Subscribe | What is RSS?


Kosher ABC

A. For starters, kosher meat must come from a kosher animal. (See What are kosher animals?)

B. However, kosher meat is not only the nature of the beast--it's how it's slaughtered and prepared, too. You can't just spear a deer or skewer a sheep and then roast it for dinner--there's a painstakingly detailed process involved in making it fit to eat.

C. Two things make meat non-kosher: 1) if it comes from a non-kosher animal (such as a horse), or 2) if it comes from a kosher animal, but was not slaughtered and/or prepared according to Jewish law.

How is meat made kosher?

1. Check It Out

First of all, we're talking about a kosher animal, right? No wild boar meat here. Secondly, the animal must be alive: Negative Mitzvah #180 prohibits eating meat from an animal (kosher or not) that died of illness or natural death, while Negative Mitzvah #181 rules out the same if the animal was killed in any manner other than the kosher way.

2. Sharpen Your Knowledge

Kosher animals must be slaughtered according to the strict regulations of shechitah (pronounced sheh-KHEE-taw), Hebrew for slaughtering. There are literally hundreds of laws governing shechitah, all of which combine to produce a painless dispatch for the animal to be slaughtered and the freshest, cleanest meat you'll ever eat. But primarily, shechitah involves the Shochet (kosher slaughterer, pronounced SHOW-khet) drawing a meticulously sharpened imperfection-free blade, reciting a blessing ("Blessed are You... Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us concerning slaughtering"), and swiftly and smoothly running the blade back and forth across the animal's neck, instantly ending its life in a most humane manner. Of course, before the shochet even becomes a shochet, he must be thoroughly versed in the laws governing the preparation and usage of the knife and the handling of the animal both before and after shechitah.

3. Dress for Kosher Success

Kosher meat rules barely begin once the animal has been slaughtered properly--the meat must be inspected, salted, soaked, de-veined and otherwise prepared in a specific, almost militaristic order, again dictated by the multitudinously detailed rules of shechitah. Much of this centers around Negative Mitzvahs Nos. 183-185, which explicitly prohibit the consumption of the sciatic nerve, any blood, or specific fatty deposits, respectively. The slightest violation of shechitah's exacting specifications make the animal non-kosher. Once the meat has been cleaned and rendered kosher, it is packed and shipped out to your friendly neighborhood supermarket or kosher meat store.


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Mitzvot » Kosher » Kosher Creatures

(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Literally means "fit." Commonly used to describe foods which are permitted by Jewish dietary laws, but is also used to describe religious articles (such as a Torah scroll or Sukkah) which meet the requirements of Jewish law.
Literally "Slaughterer". One who performs the ritual slaughter of mammals and birds as prescribed by Jewish dietary laws.