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Kosher meats include all mammals that are ruminants, meaning that they chew cud, or food that is chewed twice to facilitate digestion, and have cloven hooves. This group includes sheep, cows, goats, deer and bison along with less common meat sources, including addax, antelope, gazelle, giraffe, and ibex. Acceptable kosher fowl meat is duck, goose, turkey and chicken. Meat that is prohibited in a kosher diet includes certain types of fowl along with the meat of reptiles, pork and shellfish.
To be considered acceptable kosher meats, all of these varieties must be slaughtered in a kosher butcher shop, following concise kosher standards. The slaughtering directions require the poultry and mammals be slain by a quick gash across the neck with a razor-sharp kosher knife. This technique, called shechita, follows Jewish law and ensures the animals’ suffering is minimal.
Following slaughter, the meat requires thorough examination by a trained inspector who searches for any physiological defects that may render it unacceptable. The lungs are the focal point of the exam, as the entire animal will not be accepted if there are any adhesions on its lungs that do not pass the dietary guidelines enforced by the inspector. If it is suspected the lungs have been punctured, the animal will be discarded. Although it is not common for all adhesions to force a rejection by the inspector, some Jewish individuals and communities will only eat meat that is free of all lung abnormalities.
Since consumption of animal blood is forbidden by kosher law, all meats are required to have the blood removed by salting or broiling within 72 hours of being butchered. This eliminates the possibility of congealed blood forming on the meat’s surface. An additional 72 hour stay may be allowed if the meat is immersed in cold water prior to the expiration of the original 72 hour deadline. The process is called koshering and must be completed before the meat is exposed to warm water. If the meat touches warm water beforehand, it cannot be made kosher.
Kosher meat was once exclusively processed at home or at a local butcher shop. In recent years, the entire process has been delegated to kosher slaughterhouses that are regularly scrutinized by authorities on kosher laws and practices. Due to the specialized training needed for processing and the additional labor involved, kosher meats are normally sold at prices significantly higher than non-kosher meats.