Buying Kosher Meat & Fowl
Today’s kosher consumer is usually not directly involved in the preparation of kosher meat. Nevertheless, through her careful decisions concerning where to shop, she is ultimately responsible for the kashrut of the meat and poultry she serves.
The butcher plays a crucial role in the kashrut process. He must be thoroughly knowledgeable in the many laws relating to kosher meat, and be a person of unquestioned integrity and personal Torah observance. Because adherence to every detail of halachah (Jewish law) may sometimes mean loss of money for the seller, the butcher’s own commitment to Torah law must be of the highest order. A reliable butcher always allows a mashgiach (kashrut supervisor) to inspect his plant to see that all laws are properly observed and that the highest standard of kashrut is maintained.
A Hebrew sign that states Basar Kasher (“kosher meat”), is not sufficient assurance of kashrut. The presence of non-kosher meat on the same premises can easily lead to mix-ups. Many butchers do not salt their meat unless the customer requests that it salted. Sometimes only a tiny, hidden sign notifies the buyer of this fact. One must ask to make sure the meat has been salted. If one has used unsalted meat, a qualified rabbi must be consulted regarding the status of the pots and dishes.
The term “Glatt Kosher” refers to meat which comes from a kosher, properly slaughtered animal which, upon its examination after the slaughtering, has been found completely free of any imperfections in the lungs. Simply “kosher” is when some of these imperfections are found but were declared permissible.
If you plan to kosher the meat or chicken in your home, your butcher must tell you the exact time of slaughtering so that you will be able to kosher the meat within 72 hours of that time.
Buying Packaged Meat
Meat advertised or labeled as kosher in a supermarket requires careful scrutiny. On chickens, a small metal tag called a plumba, bearing the name of the poultry supplier, is generally attached to the wing of the chicken. The plumba bears the kosher seal, ensuring that the chicken has been properly koshered. If the chicken is cut into parts, the plumba should be attached to the bag in which the chicken is packaged.
Many self-service meat markets sell packaged kosher meat prepared under strict supervision. Be sure the package also states that the meat has been koshered.
Liver included with packaged or other chicken must be removed before the chicken is thawed or cooked. The liver must be koshered separately by being broiled over an open flame.
Only meat cuts from the front half of the animal are commonly sold as kosher, because of the difficulty involved in removing the non-kosher veins of fat from the hindquarters. However, some of these kosher meat cuts are often labeled with the standard names for non-kosher meat cuts, such as “London Broil” or “spare ribs.” These cuts are somewhat similar to the non-kosher ones, and are labeled in this way for the convenience of consumers. Before buying these cuts of meat, make sure the cut comes only from the front part of the animal and has been prepared by a reliable butcher under competent kosher supervision.
NOTE: The same care one uses in selecting a butcher should be exercised in choosing a restaurant or hotel. It should be under Rabbinic supervision and there should be a Torah observant Jew who supervises the kitchen regarding kashrut. For more information, see Restaurants, Caterers, and Hotels.