A huge selection of kosher food is available in most big cities.
Food in accord with halakha (Jewish law) is termed kosher in English. Food that does not conform to these dietary laws is known as treif which literally means torn. Meat may be torn when an animal is not killed by ritual slaughter, for example killed by another animal or with a dull knife.
Many basic laws of kashrut are derived from the Biblical Books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy, with their details subsequently codified. There are various explanations for these laws. Some look to religious and philosophical reasons, others to questions of hygiene and health. The Islamic dietary and ritual slaughter laws are similar to but distinct from kashrut. Some observant Moslems will eat kosher food, others will not. Jews who follow kashrut will not eat halal food.
Only mammals that chew their cud and have cloven hooves may be kosher. Cows and goats may be kosher; horses and pigs are not. In 2008, a rabbinical ruling determined that giraffes and their milk may be kosher. Birds of prey are not kosher. In general, birds hatched with feathers and are able to walk soon are kosher. Fish must have fins and scales to be kosher. Shellfish are not kosher. Insects are not kosher, except for a certain locust. Donít expect to see any locusts at a kosher butcher shop.
Meat and milk or dairy products may not be served at the same meal, served or cooked in the same utensils, or stored together. Observant Jews have separate meat and milk dishes. Some even have meat and milk kitchens. They wait between one and six hours after eating meat before eating dairy products.
These symbols, known as hechshers, certify the product to be kosher.
Mammals and fowl are slaughtered according to detailed ritual laws. The slaughterer uses a special knife and severs the jugular vein, carotid artery, esophagus and trachea in a single continuous cutting operation. The animal is then examined to insure that it would not have died within a year. Any failure to conform to these laws renders the animal unkosher. The koshering process removes as much blood as possible, usually by soaking and salting the meat. Liver is grilled over an open flame. Any utensils used with non-kosher foods become non-kosher, and may not be used with kosher food. There is a procedure for rendering some non-kosher utensils kosher. Vegetarian food is not necessarily kosher.
Other aspects of kashrut include conforming to the laws of the Sabbath during which no work may be done, the laws of Passover during which no leavened bread may be eaten, and special laws for wine and wine serving. Some people who live in Israel observe additional laws that require farmers to leave a field fallow every seventh year.
How can someone know whether or not a food product is kosher, and furthermore, whether it is dairy or not? There are several certification symbols known as hechshers applied to product labels after being examined by competent authorities. Kosher food processing has become so complicated that many certification groups include rabbis whose technical advisors hold a doctorate in food science.