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What is Glatt Kosher?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Glatt kosher is a higher kosher standard which is used when inspecting large animals such as cattle after slaughter to determine whether or not their meat i up to the standards of the Jewish dietary restrictions. In order to be considered glatt, when an animal's lungs are examined, they must be smooth and free of defects. If the lungs have adhesions, punctures, or other defects, the meat is considered treif, “torn,” or forbidden.

There is some confusion as to what glatt kosher really means, which can cause some interesting labeling situations. Specifically, adult cattle and buffalo can be inspected to determine whether or not they are glatt. There are situations in which meat may not be glatt, but it could still be kosher. Smaller animals and fowl must always be glatt to be considered kosher. If chickens, ducks, calves, sheep, goats, deer, and so forth are treif, the meat is not kosher, and it cannot be eaten by Jews who adhere to kashrut, the Jewish dietary laws.

It is common to see butchers advertising glatt kosher meats to assure their Jewish customers that the meat is kosher. In the case of small animals, this is a bit misleading, as people may believe that the meat is extra kosher because it is described as glatt, when in fact if the meat wasn't glatt, it wouldn't be kosher at all. When large animal meat is advertised as being glatt kosher, the additional label carries more weight, distinguishing two different kinds of kosher meat.

While the rules surrounding glatt kosher meat might seem a bit arcane, there is a solid logic behind them. “Glatt” is Yiddish for “smooth,” referencing the even appearance of the lungs of a glatt kosher animal. Lungs which are smooth and free from adhesions are more likely to be healthy, suggesting that the host animal was also healthy, and not exposed to harmful substances which could have damaged its lungs.

Given the rising use of factory farming to produce meat, the idea of seeking out especially healthy animals has merit, and it suggests a level of attention which ordinary consumers may not exert. Textual support for the glatt kosher rules can be found in the Torah, a Jewish religious text, in which people are specifically forbidden to eat meat which is treif.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By B707 — On Oct 05, 2011

I'd like to know how Jewish people today have the time to find glatt kosher meat, monitor the slaughter and examine the lungs to see if it is healthy.

If they live and work in a big city, any farm would be miles away. Are there special markets where they just have to trust the owners that the meat is kosher or glatt kosher?

By BabaB — On Oct 04, 2011

@anamur - Thank you for the good explanation of the dietary restrictions for Jews. I've heard so many different explanations, I was always confused.

So if I understand it correctly, the glatt kosher rules for slaughtering meat and choosing animals with undamaged lungs and cloven hooves were written in the Torah according what was known about health in those days.

Today, you follow what is written in the Torah because it is mandated. But according to what we know about health these days, you might search for animals that are free range fed.

By burcidi — On Oct 04, 2011

@turkay1-- I agree that there is some confusion about glatt kosher but that's because different Jewish communities have different requirements for kosher and glatt kosher. Some are stricter than others. My Rabbi for example, would say that if an animal's lungs has very small lesions, it's still considered glatt whereas yours would say it is not.

There are even Jewish families that eat dairy that has been handled in a certain way or has been certified by religious authorities. There is bound to be confusion as long as there are not common and definite rules about glatt kosher among the different Jewish communities.

By candyquilt — On Oct 03, 2011

My Rabbi says that glatt is only applicable to meat, not poultry. So it's not necessary to check poultry to see if it glatt or not, it is always kosher.

If the lungs of an animal is damaged, like if there is a hole in it, then the meat is no longer kosher for us. It's not enough for it to be slaughtered in a kosher way, it also has to be glatt for it to be kosher.

Unfortunately, some Jewish communities are a little confused about what glatt is. I've even seen canned fish and pasta labeled as glatt in a Jewish grocery. These small mistakes are confusing people about what is glatt and what isn't. We need to be very careful about this and ask our Rabbi when we are confused to avoid confusing others.

By serenesurface — On Oct 03, 2011

@anon44008-- Kosher meat is meat that fulfills the dietary requirements of the Torah. For meat to be kosher, it has to be from one of the animals allowed to be eaten in Judaism such as cows and lambs. The Torah says that only animals which have cloven hooves may be eaten. The other requirement is for the animal to be slaughtered in a certain way and then for it to be cleaned. The animal also cannot be very young, it has to be off of it mother's milk for it to be acceptable as food.

So any animal which fits these qualifications, plus chicken, turkeys and ducks are kosher and Jews can eat them. Now glatt, is in addition to this, it's about how healthy the animal is. An animal's meat can be kosher, but not very healthy. Jews can still eat this meat, but it would be better for them to eat healthy meat.

In my opinion, kosher is a requirement, but glatt kosher is only recommended. It's up to the person to decide whether they are okay with just kosher, or if they will only have glatt kosher.

By anon44008 — On Sep 03, 2009

I don't understand how an animal which is not glatt kosher can still be kosher? Anyone who knows?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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