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By Rabbi Dovid Cohen, Administrative Rabbinic Coordinator
Q. What’s the difference between meat labeled “Glatt” as compared to others labeled “Beis Yosef”? Are those different hechsherim? Is one better than the other?
The Gemara says that if two parts of an animal’s lung are attached to one another by some sort of mucous, the animal is a teraifah. [We refer to these mucous connectors as sirchos.] But that is not the entire Gemara. The Gemara says (a) that if the sirchos are in certain locations, they do not pose a concern, but (b) when they are in a problematic location the animal should be rejected outright, and there is no way to “check” the sirchah and determine that the animal is really kosher.
The Shulchan Aruch and Rema codify this Gemara very differently. The Shulchan Aruch essentially takes the Gemara at face value, ruling that one can be lenient about sirchos in certain locations (“a” above), but rejecting several suggestions for how to check (and permit) a sirchah (“b” above”). However, the Rema says that due to a lack of expertise we should forbid sirchos in many locations which the Gemara seems to permit (“a” above), but he is more understanding of methods used to check sirchos (“b” above).
Over the generations, this translated into two standards of meat: Sephardim allowed sirchos in locations where Ashkenazim would not, but in the problematic areas they would not accept any method of checking a sirchah. In contrast, Ashkenazim were wary of more sirchos but allowed different checking methods to determine that the animal remained kosher. Meat which was completely free of sirchos was referred to as being glatt or chalak which are the Yiddish or Hebrew words for “smooth”, meaning the animal’s lungs were smooth and completely free of sirchos and could be permitted without any special checking. Others might have also referred to that meat as “Beis Yosef” since it met a standard that the Beis Yosef (i.e., the Shulchan Aruch) would have accepted.
But much of this changed in the past century. Firstly, the major shechitos in the United States are overseen by Ashkenazic Rabbonim who are strict on the location of sirchos (“a” above). Secondly, due to several sociological issues, Rabbonim began labeling meat as “glatt” even if it had a “few” relatively small sirchos, and conscientious kosher consumers began to associate “glatt” meat as their minimum standard of kosher and refused to purchase any meat that was non-glatt. Thus, meat labeled glatt nowadays is not up to the standard of what Shulchan Aruch/Sephardim expect.
So, what should Sephardim do if they want to buy meat which is truly “glatt” to the standard of Shulchan Aruch? Some hashgachos accommodate that demand by labeling certain meat as Beis Yosef or chalak, when it comes from a cow that truly had no sirchos. But it is very difficult to find such animals, especially for Ashkenazim who are very machmir about the locations where sirchos should be forbidden (“a” above). [In certain South American countries, one can find meat which is truly free of sirchos, but that meat is often of lesser quality than American grown beef.] Other hashgachos take the position that the terms glatt and Beis Yosef are essentially interchangeable, and if the standard of glatt has been lowered (as above), then so too the standard of Beis Yosef can be. Such an approach appears to be a deceptive marketing practice, irrespective of whether it is true from the perspective of hilchos teraifos. A third group of hashgachos is somewhat more selective about which meat is labeled “Beis Yosef” but nonetheless does allow the checking of certain sirchos, claiming that they think Shulchan Aruch would have accepted that.
Thus, the short answer to the original question is that in many cases, the meat labeled Beis Yosef is of a higher kashrus standard than glatt meat, but the details very much depend on the approach of the specific Rav HaMachshir.