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By Rabbi Dovid Cohen, Administrative Rabbinic Coordinator

Q. What is nikkur?

A. Nikkur (a.k.a. traiboring) is the process of removing four groups of items from a carcass after shechitah, before melichah.  Before we provide some details of what is removed, it is worth noting that there are many different minhagim regarding what must be removed.  What one community believes is essential to be cut out, might never be removed by another community.  As with most things, it is important for each kehillah to follow their mesorah, and not do more or less than it dictates.

Two of the groups of items which must be removed are the gid hanasheh, a series of nerves in the animal’s hind legs, and certain fats (known as chailev) which are forbidden.  The gid hanasheh and most of the chailev which is assur mid’oraisah is found in the back half of the animal (the “hindquarters”).  Due to the tedious work required to remove these items, and the seriousness of mistakenly eating from them, the common practice is to sell the entire hindquarters to non-Jews and not consider it “kosher”.  There is some chailev found in the forequarters of the animal (most of which is only assur mid’rabannan), and that is one group of items which the menaker (the person performing and overseeing the nikkur) will remove.  This includes certain fats on/near the ribs, plate (pastrami, inner skirt), outer skirts (diaphragm/tarpash), hanging tender, liver, and tail.

The third group which requires nikkur are glands (in the deckle/brisket and hooves/p’tchah) which are removed because they are considered repulsive (mius).  The last group consists of several large blood vessels where blood collects and will not be drawn out by melichah.  Particularly, these are found in the cheek, tongue, chuck, brisket, shoulder, forearm, ribs, and plate areas.  Some of those are specifically noted in the Gemara as requiring nikkur, while others are based on minhagim.  These blood vessels must either be cut open (so the blood drains out) or removed, and the custom is to remove them.

Although many seforim have been written on the topic of nikkurRema notes that the art of nikkur is one that is much more suited to hands-on learning.  It requires butchering skills (so the meat remains presentable after nikkur) and knowledge of exactly what does and does not have to be removed.  Nowadays, most nikkur is performed at the slaughterhouse by their staff as per the direction and oversight of the Rav HaMachshir and menaker.

The Torah classifies animals into three categories: beheimos (roughly translated as domesticated species), chayos (non-domesticated species), and ofos (birds).  The above details are specific to beheimos, which includes cows, sheep, and goats.  There is no prohibition against chailev for chayos, such as deer, which simplifies the nikkur.  For ofos, such as chicken, turkey, and duck, both the chailev and gid hanasheh are permitted.  As relates to blood vessels, Shulchan Aruch rules that when the Gemara says that the vessel in the “hand” must be cut or removed that refers both to forearm of an animal and the wing of a bird.  Rema argues that the Gemara is specific to animals and does not apply to birds/ofos, but, nonetheless, the common custom is to cut off the wingtips as a fulfillment of Shulchan Aruch’s position.  [Separately, there is a requirement to remove all internal organs from a bird before melichah.]

As noted, there are varied minhagim regarding how nikkur is practiced, and each community should follow their traditions on this matter.

This article first appeared in the Let’s Talk Kashrus column, Yated Ne’eman, July 5, 2024.