Basic Kosher Rules: Differences Between Kosher and Non-Kosher Meat and Other Biblical Rules

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Kosher and Non-kosher Meat

The most basic of the biblical kosher rules is the differentiation between kosher and non-kosher meat. There are four categories of “meat” according to the bible: animals, birds, fish, and insects. For an animal to be kosher, it must be a ruminant and have cloven hooves. (A ruminant is an animal that chews its cud, or passes its food between multiple stomachs in a specific way.) Kosher animals therefore include cows, deer, sheep, and buffalo. The most commonly known non-kosher animal is the pig, which has cloven hooves but not a ruminant. For a bird to be kosher, it must be from a certain list of birds that are traditionally known to be kosher. This list includes chickens and turkeys, but excludes most scavengers like eagles and vultures. For a fish to be kosher, it must have fins and scales. Therefore, fish such as tuna and salmon are kosher, but shellfish, dolphins, and shrimp are not. Very few insects are kosher (a specific species of grasshoppers may be an exception), so people on the kosher diet are very careful to check many vegetables for insects. For example, someone following the kosher diet may check lettuce by holding it up to a light or wash strawberries by soaking them in a soapy solution.

Kosher Slaughter

The bible also delineates a specific manner of slaughtering called shchitah, which involves making a lethal cut in the neck. Therefore, a hunted deer that is shot or a typically slaughtered animal would not be considered kosher. A shochet, or kosher butcher, studies until he becomes proficient in slaughtering animals according to the biblical rules.

Milk and Meat

Although the prohibition of mixing milk and meat is well-known, it is not mentioned explicitly in the bible. Instead, it is learned from the biblical verse “Do not cook a calf in its mother’s milk.” This verse is extended to apply to all animals and all types of milk. Therefore, a person who keeps the kosher diet will not eat mixtures of meat products and dairy products.

This post is part of the series: Guide to the Kosher Diet

This guide to the kosher diet gives an overview the many complex aspects of keeping kosher. It deals with the prohibition of mixing milk and meat, avoiding foods like pork, and other less commonly known kosher laws. It includes details about kosher symbols and the certification they represent.

  1. Understanding the Basic Rules of the Kosher Diet
  2. Kosher Diet: What Makes Something Kosher?
  3. Kosher Diet: Meat, Dairy, and Pareve
  4. Kosher Diet: What is Kosher Slaughter?
  5. The Meaning of Different Kosher Food Symbols and Why Kosher Certification is Important