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By Rabbi Dovid Cohen, Administrative Rabbinic Coordinator
Q. What’s the difference between one shechitah and the next, if they all have reputable hashgachos?
A. The greatest kashrus improvement over the past 100 years has arguably been in the area of shechitah. Where it used to be that people were truly concerned that they would be served neveilah, teraifah, or maybe even horse meat, nowadays the meat certified by reputable hashgachos is all on a wonderfully high level of kashrus and by and large very reliable. As a rule, the people overseeing these hashgachos are knowledgeable, and the shochetim, bodekim, menakrim, and Mashgichim, are people with skill and yiras Shomayim.
Nonetheless, there are differences between one shechitah and the next. One type of difference has to do with the setup of the facility: How quickly does the “line” move? Do shochetim etc. work for such long stretches that they cannot concentrate properly on their craft? Are there enough Mashgichim etc. to cover all areas properly? Is there a good system in place for marking neveilos? How well do they control the segregation of animals designated as teraifos? Who is “truly” in charge when there are multiple hashgachos involved? How much, yiras Shomayim, experience, and expertise do the Rabbinic staff have?
A second way to distinguish one slaughterhouse from the next has to do with their standards of halacha and minhag. The most significant of these is the guidelines they follow for “sirchos” which determine which beef is “glatt”, “Beis Yosef”, or not suitable at all. [No sirchos are allowed for lamb and veal, and the issue of sirchos is not relevant for poultry.] Each Rav HaMachshir sets the parameters for his shechitah, and there can be great variance between one and the next. Some of the other halacha/minhag issues that differentiate one shechitah from the next include: Which parts of the animal are removed or cut during nikkur? Which parts of the animal are checked for teraifos other than the lungs? Does any meat get kashered after three days? Are shochetim required to submerge in the mikvah each day (for general upgraded kedushah, or specifically so they’ll have a better “hargashah” when checking their chalafim)? How and when are injections given to the eggs (or chicks)? Are the tzomas hagidin checked on every single chicken, or do they merely sample some (or maybe not check any)? Do chickens have to be cut open before melichah?
Most consumers do not have the knowledge to decide on these issues, and even those who do will typically have no way of clarifying what is done at each facility. Accordingly, some choose to only eat meat approved or certified by their community’s Rabbonim and rely on them to ensure it is properly set up and that its halachic standards are appropriate.
This article first appeared in the Let’s Talk Kashrus column, Yated Ne’eman, September 8, 2023.