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More detailed information about kosher foods.

Food that is not in accord with Jewish law is called treif, or treyf, Hebrew. Treif meat is meat from a non-kosher animal or a kosher animal that has not been properly slaughtered according to Jewish law.

Many of the basic laws of kashrut are in the Torah's Book of Leviticus, with their details set down in the oral law (the Mishnah and the Talmud) and codified by the Shulchan Aruch and later rabbinical authorities. Many varied reasons have been offered for these laws, ranging from philosophical and ritualistic, to practical and hygienic. By extension, the word kosher means legitimate, acceptable, permissible, genuine or authentic, in a broader sense.

The laws of kashrut derive from various passages in the Torah, and are numerous and complex, but the key principles are as follows:

  1. Only meat from particular species is permissible:
    • Only mammals that chew their cud (ruminate) and have cloven hooves are kosher.
    • Birds must fit certain criteria; birds of prey are not kosher. There must be an established tradition that a bird is kosher before it can be consumed.
    • Fish must have fins and scales to be kosher. Shellfish and non-fish water fauna are not kosher.
    • Insects are not kosher, except for certain species of kosher locust (unrecognized in most communities).


  2. Meat and milk (or derivatives) cannot be mixed, i.e. meat and dairy products are not served at the same meal, served or cooked in the same utensils, or stored together. Observant Jews have separate sets of dishes for meat and milk.


  3. Mammals and fowl must be slaughtered in specific fashion: slaughter is done by a trained individual (a shochet) using a special method of slaughter, shechita. Among other features, shechita slaughter severs the jugular vein, carotid artery, esophagus and trachea in a single cut with an unserrated, sharp knife. Failure of one of these criteria renders the meat of the animal unsuitable. The body must be checked post-slaughter so as to be certain that the animal had no medical condition or defect that would have caused it to die of its own accord.


  4. Blood must be removed as much as possible through the kashering process. However, if a minute amount remains after it is halachically schected (slaughtered) and salted and cooked, it is permissible. Removing the blood is often accomplished through soaking and salting the meat, by broiling it, or grilling it over an open flame.


  5. Utensils used for non-kosher foods are rendered non-kosher, and will transfer that non-kosher status to kosher foods. Some utensils, depending on the material they are made from, can be made kosher again by immersion in boiling water.


  6. Food that is prepared by Jews in a manner which violates the Shabbat (Sabbath) may not be eaten.


  7. Passover has special dietary rules, the most important of which is the prohibition on eating leavened bread (chametz). Utensils used in preparing and serving chametz are also forbidden on Passover. Observant Jews traditionally have separate sets of meat and dairy utensils for Passover use only.


  8. Certain foods must have been prepared in whole or in part by Jews, including:
    • Wine
    • Certain cooked foods (bishul akum)
    • Cheese (gvinas akum)
    • According to many: certain dairy products "milk of Israel"
    • According to some: bread (under certain circumstances)


  9. Biblical rules control the use of agriculture produce: for produce grown in the Land of Israel a modified version of the Biblical tithes must be applied, including Terumat HaMaaser, Maaser Rishon, Maaser Sheni, and Maaser Ani (untithed produce is called tevel); the fruit of the first three years of a tree's growth or replanting are forbidden for eating or any other use as orlah; produce grown in the Land of Israel on the seventh year is Shviis, and unless managed carefully is forbidden as a violation of the Shmita (Sabbatical Year).
Click here to learn about how Kosher Meat is prepared.












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