Kosher food is the food Jews are allowed to eat according to their religious laws, like halal food in Islam. The original laws of Kosher food can be found in the Torah, in the books of Leviticus chapter 11 and Deuteronomy chapter 14. The laws were expanded upon and explained by rabbis in subsequent generations.
The term “kosher” can apply to three categories:
- The types of animal meat Jews are permitted to eat and prohibited from eating.
- The proper preparation of the permitted meat.
- The prohibition to eat, sell or cook meat and dairy products together.
For animals to be considered kosher they must meet three conditions: they must chew their cud, have hooves, and the hooves must be split. This means that cow, lamb and deer, for example, are kosher; but pork and rabbit are not. For fish to be kosher, they must have both fins and scales, so shrimp, lobster, oysters and other seafood aren’t kosher. Birds of prey are not kosher, but chicken, Turkey and quail are fine. Products of non-kosher animals, such as camel milk or ostrich eggs, are similarly non-kosher.
Preparation of the meat
For meat to be Kosher, the animal must be slaughtered and its meat prepared according to Jewish tradition. The ritual slaughterer (shohet, in Hebrew) uses a sharp knife to sever the trachea and esophagus in one cut. The meat is then salted in order to remove excess blood, which is non-kosher. Organs that contain much blood, such as liver, must also be roasted to be rendered kosher.
Mixing meat and dairy
Our rabbis understood three verses in the Torah, prohibiting the cooking of a baby goat in its mother’s milk, as a general prohibition on eating all forms of meat and dairy together, as well as cooking such food and profiting it. Observant Jews keep separate sets of cooking utensils and dishes for meat and dairy products and wait a number of hours (varying from one to six) after eating meat before they eat dairy products.
Food prepared by non-Jews
One reason given for the stringent Jewish dietary laws is the attempt to limit socializing of Jews and non-Jews, leading to intermarriage and assimilation. Over the generations, rabbis have imposed additional restrictions on food cooked or processed by non-Jews, including wine, bread, cheese and more.