Those who keep a kosher diet may know that the laws of kashrut have existed since the time of the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. Food that is not kosher is called treyfa and is not permitted to be eaten. The Orthodox Jew in the modern world generally has a very easy time with kashrut, mostly due to kosher certification. In days past, Jewish communities were much smaller and it was well known who did the kosher slaughtering of the animals and who did the milking. With the vast manufacturing plants of today, it's more difficult to have that personal connection with food, so kosher certification is vital to insure that the food being consumed is kosher.
The basic kosher definition has not changed much in the centuries past. Many of the basic laws come from Vayikra and Devarim, the third and fifth books of the Torah. The details to these laws are a part of the Oral Law.
Some of the general rules of kashrut include:
When keeping a kosher diet, it's important to know which animals are permitted to be eaten. The kosher definition of permitted mammals include those that have split hooves and chew their cud. These animals include cows, sheep, deer, bulls and goats. The kosher definition of permitted birds is less clear, however. The Torah lists some of the forbidden birds, they are all birds of prey. Some of the birds that are allowed to be eaten on a kosher diet are chicken, geese, turkeys and ducks.
Kosher slaughter is an important part of a kosher diet. What makes beef kosher is not only the fact that the meat is from a cow but also how that cow was killed. A trained shochet, or ritual slaughterer, uses an extremely sharp knife to quickly cut the throat of the animal, allowing it to almost immediately lose consciousness.
This method of slaughter also causes most of the blood to be drained from the animal, and because blood is not permitted to be eaten, this is also quite important. To remove the remaining blood, the meat must be broiled, soaked or be treated with kosher salt.
Years ago, kosher salt was used to remove the blood in homes, but the Orthodox Jew of today need not go through all of this. Generally, meat manufacturer uses kosher salt and the consumer buys the meat with all of the blood already removed.
What makes beef kosher is also using it within three days of slaughter, or washing it every third day until 12 days have passed, after which it is no longer considered kosher.
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