What Kosher Means When It Comes to Food
According to research by Kosher Network International, global sales of kosher foods is expected to will top $24 billion in 2025, an increase of approximately 11.5% from annual sales in 2017. In the US only 2% of the population is Jewish and yet more than 40% of all food sold in supermarkets is certified as being kosher. So why the soaring popularity of this type of food, especially among non-Jewish folks? The answer has to do with the perception amongst people of all faiths as well as atheists and agnostics that kosher food is healthier than other types of mass-produced food. And there is something to this.
Kosher food, for instance, does not include potentially problematic ingredients like shellfish, which can cause allergic reactions in people. And many kosher foods are also vegan-friendly, such as Oreo cookies which became both kosher and vegan some 25 years ago after eliminating pork fat (lard) from their ingredient list.
What is Kosher and Where Did it Come From?
Jewish dietary law is very clear on what constitutes kosher and what does not. Here is a capsule version of the rules and requirements used to determine if something is kosher.
- A kosher animal is one with cloven hooves who chews their cud such as cows, sheep, and goats.
- Such animals must be slaughtered properly for their meat to be considered kosher.
- Any dairy products must come from kosher animals.
- Any equipment used to process dairy products must not process non-kosher foods.
- Any food containing animal products from non-kosher animals cannot be kosher.
- If nuts and seeds have undergone any type of processing they must be certified kosher.
- Fish are only kosher if they have fins and scales. Meaning no shellfish, lobsters, or shrimp.
Depending on the level of a person's observance other rules come into play, such as ensuring meat and dairy products do not touch each other on the plate and that the observant person waits half an hour between eating meat and eating dairy.
Over time these divine rules regarding what is and isn't 'clean' were passed down through generations, eventually being encoded further in both the Mishnah and the Talmud. In the centuries since rabbinical authorities have taken it upon themselves to enact various ordinances to reinforce and safeguard these biblical laws.
Today, observant Jews are not the only ones who prefer kosher foods. People from all walks of life have come to appreciate the rigor with which kosher foods are prepared and see it as a healthy alternative to processed foods and meat emanating from slaughterhouses where cleanliness and care often take a back seat to production quotas and profit.
What is Pareve?
When discussing kosher food you will no doubt hear the word "pareve" quite a bit and might wonder what it means. Is it just another way of saying "kosher"? Well, yes and no. Pareve is the word used to describe foods that are neither meat nor dairy products and that do not contain meat or dairy products. Such foods would include fish and eggs.
These foods are considered "neutral" but are still closely monitored to ensure they meet the requirements laid out for kosher foods. For example, eggs can be consumed by observant people as long as they come from kosher fish or fowl. In addition, eggs need to be inspected to ensure they do not carry any traces of blood. If they do then all traces of the blood will need to be washed away before the eggs can be considered kosher.
Are Kosher and Halal the Same Thing?
It is a common misconception that kosher food and halal food are essentially the same thing. They are not, although there is a certain amount of crossover, particularly from halal to kosher. Muslims adhering to a halal ("permitted") diet can consume many kosher foods, as long as those foods do not contain alcohol or use alcohol in their preparation.
On the other hand, Jewish people wishing to maintain a strict kosher diet are not able to eat many types of halal foods regularly consumed by Muslims. For instance, Islam allows for the eating of shellfish, a major no-no for kosher Jews. Also, halal imposes no restrictions when it comes to presenting meat and dairy together or preparing foods that contain both. Again, this is a significant difference from the kosher diet.
There are also significant differences between kosher and halal when it comes to how animals are slaughtered. For instance, the kosher butcher must be specially trained, while any devout Muslim can take on the role of a butcher. Also, to be considered kosher the animal cannot be stunned before being slaughtered. Halal imposes no such restrictions. In addition, the knife used by a kosher butcher must be straight, while a halal knife can be curved.
The bottom line is that kosher and halal, while similar in some regards are not interchangeable dietary systems.
What About Plant-Based Foods?
Plant-based foods are considered pareve because they do not contain meat or dairy. Nonetheless not just any plant-based food is considered kosher. In their purest form bread and grains are generally considered kosher. Things get a bit trickier when processing takes place. If, during the processing of a plant-based food animal shortening was used or the food was processed in a facility that also processes non-kosher foods, it is not kosher. Also, if plant-based dishes were prepared in baking pans that were greased using animal fat the resulting food is not kosher.
When it comes to fruits and vegetables they are generally considered kosher, as long as they are washed thoroughly before cooking or eating. In their raw form nuts and seeds are also considered kosher. But again, if they undergo processing using animal shortening or they are processed in an "unclean" facility they lose their kosher status.
What About Genetically Modified Organisms?
A lot of people are surprised to learn that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) do not present any particular problems when it comes to being kosher, as long as they do not contain the DNA of prohibited organisms. Nonetheless, no GMOs is still the goal of many kosher food producers and indeed the nation of Israel imposes some fairly strict rules related to the cultivation and sale of GMOs in the country.
What About Soda Pop? Can Soda be Kosher?
Most of the prohibitions related to the kosher status of different foods revolve around the presence or absence of meat and dairy. Since Rocky Mountain Soda does not contain meat or dairy and because none of our ingredients have been processed in non-kosher facilities our soda is not only gluten-free, vegan, and contains no GMOs, it also happens to be kosher.
Our commitment to kosher means our delicious and refreshing natural soda can be enjoyed by the widest possible range of people. It's all part of our commitment to creating an inclusive brand that invites people in rather than freezing them out.
Deciphering every aspect of the kosher diet would take more space than we have here. But the principles laid out above provide an accurate overview of this dietary system. Once you get to know more about the rules regulating kosher status you can begin to understand why so many health-conscious people worldwide are turning to kosher food as an alternative to mass-produced foodstuffs whose manufacturing methods are becoming increasingly troublesome and cloaked in mystery.
To learn more about Rocky Mountain Soda, or to order some delicious, refreshing, and kosher Rocky Mountain pop for yourself, your restaurant, or another establishment, contact us by calling (720) 772-7632 during normal business hours.