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Kosher 101: Basic Requirements

What is the Difference between Meat, Dairy and Parve Foods?

Many kosher laws stem from whether a food or food derivative falls into one of these categories. Because of the strict limits set down by kosher laws, consumers have peace of mind that a kosher certified dairy product contains no meat, and vice-versa. Parve products must contain neither meat nor dairy ingredients.

What is Considered Kosher Meat?

Any meat or derivative will be given a ‘meat’ designation.

To be considered kosher, the meat must include the following standards:

Kosher Signs:

The meat must come from an animal that both chews its cud and has split hooves. Many large domestic animals are kosher. Common kosher animals include cows, sheep and goats. However pigs, which have split hooves but do not chew cud, aren’t kosher. Neither are camels, rabbits or frogs – just to name a few.

Birds & Fowl:

There is a distinction between meat from large animals and from birds. Most fowl that are regularly eaten in the West are also kosher. This includes chicken, turkey, geese, duck and game hens. Birds of prey are never kosher.

Kosher Slaughter:

All animals must be slaughtered by a Jewish expert called a shochet, in a specified manner using a long razor sharp knife.

No blood may be eaten so meat is soaked and salted prior to being packed for consumers.
Raw eggs that are used in production must be inspected to ensure there are no blood spots inside.
Certain hind-quarter fats are not kosher. These sections must be removed.
Not only must the meat be kosher and properly prepared, it also needs to be cleaned and packed with kosher utensils.

What about Dairy Foods?

Any milk ingredient that finds its way into a product renders it ‘dairy.’ This means that milk, cheese, butter and sour cream or yogurt are all dairy products.

  • To be kosher, the dairy product must come from a kosher species.
    It cannot contain any meat product, such as rennet.
    The equipment used to process the ingredients must itself be kosher.

What is Parve?

Parve refers to any food that is neither milk nor meat. It may be used in any milk or meat production, this includes fruits, vegetables, pasta, bread, eggs, coffee, tea and most spices.

To be certified as parve, the product often must be processed on equipment that is neither dairy nor meat. Anything that is itself meat or dairy will render the parve product meat or dairy.

Fish, though parve, has it’s own surprising stringency – it cannot be mixed with meat. So bread that is made with omega fish oils cannot be used to wrap a deli sandwich.

Kosher certification requires there be no apparent insects or insect eggs present in a product. Many fruits and vegetables are common hosts to a variety of insects, and they must be washed, sometimes repeatedly, and checked.

Are Shellfish Kosher?

No! Shellfish are not kosher. And neither is shark or any undersea creature that doesn’t have both fins and scales. Common fish such as tuna, salmon and trout are kosher.

How to Make Wine Kosher

Nothing is more stringent in kashrus than wine. It requires the full participation of Torah observant Jews to prepare, regardless of the status of the ingredients used.