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What Is Kosher Butchering?

By Marco Sumayao
Updated May 16, 2024
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Kosher butchering, also referred to as shechita, is a method of slaughtering an animal and preparing its meat in accordance to kashrut, the set of Jewish dietary laws. These laws encompass the selection of the animals considered suitable for consumption, the manner in which they are slaughtered, and the manner in which the meat must be cut and prepared. Due to the complexity of the guidelines, kosher butchering requires much skill and practice. Kosher foods are relatively more expensive than regularly-butchered meats as a result of both the difficulty of butchering as well as the smaller amount of meat obtained per animal. The practice of kosher butchering is typically limited to followers of Orthodox Judaism, although individuals from other branches of faith can choose to follow these guidelines.

Kashrut dictates numerous rules for what sorts of animals may be eaten, most notable of which are the qualifications that land animals must have cloven hooves and chew their own cud if they are to be considered kosher. The animals must be of good health before being slaughtered; otherwise, the meat is considered "unclean" and cannot be eaten. Injured animals, including those stunned with electric jolts or gas, cannot be used for kosher butchering. A kosher butcher, or shochet, should take great care in selecting the animals to be slaughtered and ensure they fall in accordance with kashrut.

The rules of kosher butchering require that the animal must be killed with one clean cut across the throat and allowed to bleed to death. The blade used for slaughter must not be made with materials connected to the ground and must fulfill specific length and quality requirements. Butchers should sever the animal’s carotid arteries, jugular veins, and windpipes in the cut.

Once the animal expires and is drained of blood, the butcher must then examine its internal organs for signs of damage or disease. Any signs that the animal was not of perfect health render it treif, or not kosher. If the animal is confirmed to be kosher, the butcher must offer its cheeks, forelegs, and fourth stomach to the animal’s owner. Kosher butchering then involves stripping the animal’s carcass of all blood vessels and soaking the remaining meat in water or curing it in salt to remove any remaining blood.

One of the most difficult procedures of kosher butchering, porging, involves the removal of the blood vessels, certain types of fat and organs, and sinew. Many butchers choose to discard the animal’s hind portions, as the forbidden fats in these areas, as well as the prohibited sciatic nerve, are difficult to remove. Once all these requirements are fulfilled, the remaining meat can be cut and sold as kosher groceries.

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Discussion Comments
By discographer — On Jul 11, 2014

@turquoise-- Yes, it's very difficult. That's why the butcher has to be specially trained for this. Anyone cannot do it.There are many kosher butcher shops in areas with large Jewish populations for this reason.

In order for meat to be kosher, the animal has to be treated and fed right from birth. So it's not just about butchering either. It's a very long, detailed process.

By candyquilt — On Jul 10, 2014

@turquoise-- Yes, they're very similar. In fact, all of the major rules are the same. The animal must be treated humanely and slaughtered by severing the neck for a quick death. And all of the blood must be removed. I think God's name is pronounced while the neck of the animal is severed in both kosher and halal butchering.

I actually know a few Muslims who consume kosher meat when they can't find halal meat. I've not heard of Jews consuming halal meat though. Even though the rules are the same, there is an additional rule in Judaism that the person slaughtering the animal must be an orthodox Jew. So that makes halal meat non-kosher. Although I've heard of people saying that this rule was made to protect Jews from animal meat that was slaughtered for idol worship, which is obviously not an issue with halal meat.

For the most part though, Muslims only consume halal meat and Jews, kosher meat.

By turquoise — On Jul 10, 2014

Wow, kosher butchering seems very difficult. No wonder kosher meat is difficult to find and more expensive. The Islamic way of preparing halal meat is similar, right? Is there any difference between kosher butchering and halal butchering?

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