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Kosher facts for kids

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Kosher McDonald's, Abasto Shopping, Buenos Aires
McDonald's Kosher in Buenos Aires (Argentina)

Kosher, a translation of the Hebrew word Kashrut, is the name Jews give to the laws about the kind of food that they may eat. Their holy books specify certain kinds of food that are all right to eat, and that other kinds should not be eaten.

The Kosher laws say that products classified as meat must not be eaten in the same meal with dairy products. Fish, fruit, and vegetables are considered neutral, called pareve (pronounced "PAR-veh"), and may be eaten with either meat or dairy meals. Jews who "keep kosher" have separate utensils for meat and dairy foods, and wait a number of hours after eating one type of food before eating the other type.

The meat of some animals may not be eaten at all. Animals whose meat may be eaten must be killed in a special, careful way by a religiously trained slaughterer. Meat that is not fit to eat is called treif (pronounced TRAYf).

Basic rules of Kashrut

Types of meat and drink

  • Land animals that chew their cud (ruminate) and have a split (cloven) hoof may be eaten (note that animals with toes may not be eaten. They must be true hooves). This includes livestock like cattle and sheep, but not pigs (which do not chew their cud) or camels (which do not have split hooves).
  • Animals that eat meat (carnivores and omnivores) may not be eaten. This also means that birds of prey may not be eaten.
  • Specific birds (from a list) may not be eaten. This includes ostrich for example.
  • Fish must have fins and scales. Fish without scales (like eels), invertebrates like lobster and shrimp, and shellfish (like mussels) are forbidden.
  • No amphibians or reptiles may be eaten. Examples of these are frogs.
  • Most insects may not be eaten, with some exceptions like locusts.
  • Wine must be specially made. There are special rules about alcohol and other intoxicating substances.

Preparing food

  • The animals need to be killed in a special way. The kosher slaughterer has religious training for this work.
  • An animal that dies by natural means, or is killed by another animal or a hunter, may not be eaten.
  • Meat from a sick animal may not be eaten.
  • No blood may be eaten. All blood needs to be drained from the meat (by soaking and salting it). In eggs, not even eggs with just a spot of blood can be eaten.
  • Foods made in a factory: manufacturers sometimes label products that have got certification by adding graphical symbols to the label. These symbols are known as hechsherim.
  • A kosher kitchen has separate sets of dishes: one for meat foods, another for dairy foods.
  • Food may not be cooked during the Sabbath, which in Judaism is called Shabbat.

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