Kosher – What is it, concept, allowed and prohibited animals

We explain what kosher food is, which animals can be eaten and which cannot. Also, what is kosher certification.

Kosher foods are those allowed in the Jewish religious diet.

What is kosher food?

Kosher, kosher or kashrut food is one that complies with the precepts of Jewish law concerning what can or cannot be ingested (precisely, the kashrut, whose principles are detailed in the Leviticus book of the Biblical Old Testament and the Tanach). That is to say, it is about the Jewish religious diet.

Strictly speaking, the words kosher or kosher (“convenient” or “adequate” in Hebrew) are the Hebrew adjectives for what complies with the mandates of the kashrut, that is, it does not contain any of the forbidden animals (considered impure and called trefá in Hebrew), and has been prepared according to the specific religious methods of old.

This distinction is so vital to the Thread religious communities that many kosher products in the current food industry have certifications and guarantees of their preparation on the packaging, so that they can be safely consumed by practitioners of Judaism.

Thus, there are kosher butchers, kosher restaurants, etc., whose services are demanded by practitioners of Judaism, and also by vegetarians or practitioners of Islam, when food is scarce halal.

Pets allowed and prohibited

The kosher diet is very specific about which animals can be eaten and which cannot, especially with regard to terrestrial and aquatic animals. The standard indicates that all ruminant land animals with cloven hooves can be eaten, characteristics that must be given in unison. So free them, pigs, camels, badgers and the like are strictly prohibited.

As to aquatic animals, those that have scales and fins can be consumed (again, at the same time), so it is limited to fish, excluding all kinds of crustaceans, mollusks, marine mammals, and scaleless fish.

Regarding birds, the Torah provides a list of impure animals, whose consumption is prohibited, mostly because they are scavengers or birds of prey, but leaving out many of the birds of the New World, for example, what which leaves some room for interpretation. Turkey, chicken, duck and goose are generally considered kosher.

Finally, the vast majority of insects are prohibited, along with reptiles, amphibians and rodents. All these prohibitions affect the direct and indirect consumption of impure animals, as well as their derived products, with the sole exception of honey.

Kosher food preparation

kosher preparation
The allowed foods must be rigorously separated.

Another fundamental aspect of the preparation of kosher food is that which refers to its ideal way of culinary handling. This starts with the shechita, the ritual form of sacrifice of animals allowed, carried out by a butcher (shojet), who by means of a sharp and flawless knife pierces the vein in the animal’s throat, to allow it to bleed to death without suffocation.

It is a cut that causes the least amount of suffering possible to the animal. Once sacrificed, the animal must be completely exsanguinated, for the consumption of blood is prohibited by the Torah, and then it must be salted. Only fish are exempt from this procedure.

Those animals that have died from natural causes or disease are strictly prohibited. So are fats around vital organs, as well as the liver and sciatic nerve of animals.

On the other hand, the kashrut also explicit the prohibition of consuming meat products from mammals or birds, at the same time as milk or its derived products. Eggs and dairy are allowed, or fish and dairy. This separation even involves the implements used in the kitchen and handling of the products, so that the same plate, cutlery or container cannot be used for meat and dairy products.

Similarly, when it comes to eating, these types of products cannot be combined, but some can be consumed first, let a period of time of several hours pass, or wash the mouth in some cases, and then consume the other. A tiny portion of milk or its derivatives in a plate is enough to turn it completely into a dairy food, in the eyes of the kashrut.

Lastly, according to kosher standards the preparation of wine requires that the grape is not crushed with the feet (considering them impure),

Kosher certification

kosher certification
There are various kosher certification agencies in the world.

Kosher certification is an international guarantee seal for the consumption of food and products handled according to the instructions of the kashrut.

It is usually presented as a letter “U” enclosed in a circle (in the case of the Orthodox Union certification), a “P” enclosed in a circle (for being food suitable for Easter) or various designs with the letter “K” (from kosher, obviously). There are several kosher certification agencies in the world, each with its own emblems and verification methods.