Kosher Food: The Basics

Posted By : Aubrey Mead , on Dec, 2015


The term “kosher” is one that has made it into the lexicon of common words. It has come to symbolize something that is blessed, right or correct. In reality, the Hebrew term, “Kashrus,” refers to something that is pure and, therefore, suitable for use or consumption. In the past, kosher food was the only food to be consumed by practicing Jews. Today, while the term still is strictly adhered to by many, modern food production methods have made it more difficult to sort out.

Kosher Food and Jewish Dietary Laws

Jewish dietary laws regulate how kosher food is to be prepared. They can be strictly biblical in their approach. Modifications, however, may also occur. In this approach, the spirit of the original regulations remains, however, the process allows for modern production methods. In other words, some leeway is provided in instances where the exact origin is unknown e.g. the origins of the flavoring or other ingredients. While it is best to opt for products approved by the various agencies, this may not always prove possible or practical.

What Foods Are Kosher?

Kosher foods are prescribed. They may be kosher because of their make-up. This includes:

  • Meat from animals with cloven hooves who choose their cud e.g. cattle, goats, sheep, and springbok
  • Flesh from such birds as the chicken, duck, goose and turkey
  • Fish that may be eaten are those that have both fins and scales such as cod, haddock, herring, salmon and tuna. Shellfish of all species are forbidden
  • All Fruits and Vegetables
  • Eggs from kosher poultry
  • Milk from kosher animals

They are also kosher food as a result of the method used to slaughter them. Meat and fowl must be slaughtered humanely. The animals must not suffer. The meat must be blessed. Yet, you can prepare and serve kosher food so that it is no longer kosher.

When Is Kosher Food NOT Kosher?

The dietary regulations are such that they prohibit certain practices. Among these are:

  • The serving together of dairy and meat products
  • The cooking and preparation of meat and dairy products together
  • The addition of any non-kosher ingredient to a kosher food product

These are regulations that may be strictly observed. Not everyone chooses to follow the dietary restrictions. This is, in part, due to the complexity – including having at least two sets of dishes and other duplicate items relating to the preparing, cooking and serving of food. Moreover, while labels may indicate kosher food, not all affordable food is so-labelled.

Kosher Food Today

While many still adhere to the strict biblical definition and eat accordingly, others do not. For them, the modern world has altered the meaning of kosher. The definition has become varied over time and through diverse cultures. Today, kosher food is no longer a singular term; instead, it embraces the different meanings brought to it through a wealth of ethnic and richly diverse religious groups.

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