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Chalav Stam Nowadays

By Rabbi Dovid Cohen, Administrative Rabbinic Coordinator

Q. My family has always used chalav stam products based on the ruling of Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l, but recently we heard that some claim that his ruling no longer applies.  Is that true?

A. Rav Moshe wrote numerous teshuvos on the topic of chalav Yisroel, and in each he notes that it is preferable for people to drink chalav Yisroel, but it is, nonetheless, perfectly permitted to use (what is colloquially known as) chalav stam, due to government inspection of dairy farms to assure that only cows’ milk is used.  Those who have always used chalav stam may continue to do so and should not be concerned about recent rumors that these inspections no longer exist. Although it is true that there is no formal question on the inspector’s forms that says, “Does the milk come from cows?”, nonetheless:

(a)      The law clearly requires that milk and milk-products sold to the public come from a cow.

(b)      Inspectors have told kashrus personnel that if they ever observed someone using milk from another animal or even having another type of animal on a dairy farm, that person would definitely be cited for a violation.

(c)       It is basically impossible (in the United States) to purchase equipment with which to milk non-kosher animals, and, therefore, the only violations that ever occur in this realm are when a farmer will attempt to substitute kosher goat or sheep milk for cow’s milk. Even this type of violation is quite uncommon.

(d)      The requirement that milk must come from a cow is so obvious and is so rarely violated that the inspector’s forms do not even bother asking the inspectors to check that during an inspection. It is akin to the fact that when we instruct a mashgiach as to his tasks we do not ask him to check if the restaurant is using ham, because it is so obvious that a kosher facility would not use it, and of course the mashgiach will report someone doing so.

Accordingly, those who have always used chalav stam may continue to do so.

That said, the regulations and oversight are limited to milk sold commercially, but one may not purchase raw milk on a farm, unless a Jew watches the milking.  Similarly, this level of oversight is only true in the United States and certain other countries but does not necessarily apply elsewhere.  Accordingly, before you travel internationally, you should inquire with your local Va’ad whether the leniency of chalav stam applies in that country.

This article first appeared in the Let’s Talk Kashrus column, Yated Ne’eman, May 17, 2024.