In short, a shochet (slaughterer) slaughters a kosher animal by making one cut through the esophagus and the windpipe of the animal, as well as the arteries in the neck, effectively cutting off its air supply, digestive tract, and blood supply very quickly. Although this does prevent the animal from suffering unnecessarily, other methods of preventing animal suffering are not considered kosher slaughter. For example, stunning the animal or using a laser are not permitted.
Before slaughtering the animal, the shochet must ensure that the animal is relatively healthy. There are various health problems that can render an animal non-kosher, such as a missing limb, a hole in certain vital organs (e.g., lungs, heart), or a disease that would cause the animal to die within a short amount of time. Animals that are found to be non-kosher before or during the slaughtering process are usually sent to a non-kosher processing plant.
The shochet has to check the knife carefully to make sure that there are no irregularities on the cutting edge. A slight knick in the blade can render the entire animal non-kosher, as the cut must be made smoothly.
The shochet must cut horiztonally rather than vertically. In other words, he should not press down on the knife; instead, he should move the knife back and forth.
After slaughtering the animal, the shochet must check the lungs to make sure that they do not contain any blemishes. To do this, the shochet makes a cut in the cavity of the animal and reaches inside. He feels the outer surface of the lungs to make sure that they are smooth. Certain irregularities can be noted but still used, whereas others render the meat non-kosher. If the animal’s lungs are almost completely smooth, the meat is considered “glatt kosher” or “smooth kosher.” Glatt kosher meat is a higher standard of kosher meat. Some other organs are checked as well.
Note: This article presents the basics about kosher slaughter, but it does not include details that only a shochet well-versed in kosher slaughter would be able to follow. In order to learn true kosher shchitach, speak with an experienced shochet.
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.