What Makes a Food Kosher?

For a food product to be considered kosher, it must be prepared in accordance with guidelines specified by Jewish dietary law. We carry plenty of kosher certified foods at the Co-op, but how do you tell if a product is certified? What does it mean for a food to be kosher?

Kosher foods can fall into one of three categories: meat (including all meat byproducts), dairy, and pareve, which refers to foods that contain neither meat nor dairy and includes eggs, fruits and vegetables, pasta, canned beans, and most of the other products we sell.

Kosher meats must come from animals that chew their food and have split hooves, like cows, goats, and sheep. Chickens, ducks, turkeys and other non-predatory fowl can also be considered kosher. For their meat to be kosher, animals must be slaughtered, inspected, and prepared by a schochet, an expert with special training in kosher slaughtering rituals. Blood from the animal must be drained, which is typically done by soaking the meat in cold water and then salting it. All of the equipment used by the schochet must also be kosher.

To be considered kosher, dairy and meat cannot be mixed, so dairy products cannot contain gelatin or animal rennet. Anything containing even trace amounts of meat or dairy are classified as such. Since insects are not kosher, certain fruits and vegetables must be inspected before earning their certification. There’s even a unique certification process for wine!

The exact requirements for Kosher certification can vary can vary depending on the organization—that’s why there are so many different symbols on various products throughout the store. OU Kosher and OK Kosher are some of the largest Kosher certification organizations. To see if a product is kosher certified, check the label for a certification symbol.
For more information on kosher certification, visit www.oukosher.org or www.ok.org.