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Kosher Slaughter

Jewish law states that kosher mammals and birds must be slaughtered according to a strict set of guidelines, the slaughter (shechita) which as a side-benefit minimizes the pain inflicted on the animal. This necessarily eliminates the practice of hunting wild game for food, unless it can be captured alive and ritually slaughtered.

A professional slaughterer, or shochet using a large razor-sharp knife with absolutely no irregularities, nicks or dents, and checked carefully between killing each animal, makes a single cut across the throat to a precise depth, severing both carotid arteries, both jugular veins, both vagus nerves, the trachea and the esophagus, no higher than the epiglottis and no lower than where cilia begin inside the trachea, causing the animal to instantaneously bleed to death. Any variation from this exact procedure could cause unnecessary suffering; therefore, if the knife catches even for a split second or is found afterward to have developed any irregularities, or the depth of cut is too deep or shallow, the carcass is not kosher (nevela) and is sold as regular meat to the general public. The shochet must not only be rigorously trained in this procedure, but also a pious Jew of good character who observes the Sabbath, and who remains cognizant that these are God's creatures who are sacrificing their lives for the good of himself and his community and should not be allowed to suffer. In smaller communities, traditionally the shochet was often the town rabbi or the rabbi of one of the local synagogues; large factories which produce Kosher meat have professional full time shochtim on staff. Koshat is now available either directly in local stores or by order everywhere in the world.

Once killed, the animal is opened to determine whether there are any of seventy different irregularities or growths on its internal organs, which would render the animal non-kosher. The term glatt kosher (although it is often used colloquially to mean "strictly kosher") literally means "smooth", and properly refers to meat where the lungs have absolutely no adhesions (i.e. scars from previous inflammation), thus there was never even a question of their not being kosher.

As Jewish law prohibits the consumption of the blood of any animal, all blood and large blood vessels must be removed from the meat. This is most commonly done by soaking and salting, but also can be done by a special broiling process. The hindquarters of a mammal are not kosher unless the sciatic nerve and the fat surrounding it are removed (Genesis 32, last verse). This is a very time-consuming process demanding a great deal of special training, and is rarely done outside Israel where there is a greater demand for kosher meat. When it is not done the hindquarters of the animal are sold for non-kosher meat.

Click here to learn about how Kosher Gelatin is prepared.

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