Friday, January 11, 2008

Why Kosher Meat Is A Healthier Alternative

This is interesting espially in light of the way our local farmer Chang slaughters her chickens. She said many of the same things, e.g., you want the animal to bleed out right away, we plucked it in cold water, etc., and most importantly, she slaughtered them so quickly and gently--pretty much the way that's dictated below--and the birds did not look like they suffered. She is Hmong from Laos. It's interesting how differed cultures evolved to have similar techniques. When you're involved with raising your own food, you begin to pay attention to these things.

From News Target:

There are three major issues involved with kosher meats. Kosher meats are those listed in the Bible as derived from animals deemed edible for the Jewish people. Any animal with a cloven hoof that chews its cud is allowable; conversely, those which lack both of these characteristics are forbidden. Cattle, sheep, goats, and deer are examples of kosher mammals. Horses, dogs and pigs are forbidden. Birds are allowable according to custom, but generally, it seems that birds of prey are forbidden. Chicken, quail, and doves are kosher; eagles are forbidden.

The second issue in regard to kosher meats has to do with the way the animal is slaughtered. The Bible is clear in its instruction that Jews are not to eat the animal's blood. It is also taught that man is not to cause the suffering of any other living thing. As a result, from the time of the giving of the instructions, a procedure has been carried down through the generations detailing how the throat is to be cut and the blood drained immediately. The cut is to be swift and sure, done with a knife that is always to be kept sharp and free of nicks. Done correctly, a kosher slaughter causes very little or no discernible suffering to the animal.

Both the animal and the slaughter must fit within the kosher rules. Both conditions must be met. Many people think any beef is kosher, but it is not if it was slaughtered in the most common way, which is not always humane and after which the blood is not removed.

A third rule for kosher meat is that the meat from a diseased animal cannot be considered kosher. In fact, with meat labeled Glatt Kosher, the lungs of the mammal have been checked for lesions and parasites and any other indications of illness. Only producers who have earned a disease-free status are used, and to better insure this high quality meat, the animals are given more room and not fed any animal by-products. Animal by-products, which are being added to some feed, can mean ground-up animals such as diseased dogs and cats from animal shelters, and even feces. Kosher animals such as cattle are vegetarian animals, not carnivorous; the conventional producers' purpose in adding the animal by-products is not for nutrition, but for adding bulk more quickly and cheaply. Additionally, kosher animals are young animals and so are less likely to contract diseases such as Mad Cow Disease.

The kosher slaughtering procedure has been shown to have direct results on meat quality. The purpose of this article is simply to point out these types of results. The author in no way intends to sway anyone to any specific religion. The intent is to point out that if a person still wants to eat meat, but is concerned with humane issues, he/she might want to consider trying kosher meats. Also, if a person is eliminating meat for health reasons, but really misses his/her burger, kosher ground meat might be an occasional treat to consider.

There has been much media coverage of the conditions of slaughterhouses and the disturbing treatment of animals by mainstream packing plants. Although such plants are regulated by the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (1979), the regulation on how many shots to the brain allowed is five. That means an animal can be shot five times in the head before it collapses. With kosher slaughter, the carotid arteries, the primary blood suppliers to the brain, are severed at the same time as the trachea and esophagus. Because the loss of blood is so great, as is the drop in blood pressure, the animal is rendered insensate almost immediately. Studies have shown an unconscious state occurs within seconds. This has been determined by checking certain physiological criteria related to the eyes, tongue and tail. Both the Humane Slaughter act and PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) have acknowledged that kosher slaughter is more humane than the common method.

The humane treatment of animals is important on a nutritional level too. Kosher slaughterers are extensively trained in how to treat the animal, the knife and the actual cutting. A gentle and calm approach on the part of the kosher slaughterer was observed to result in little or no reaction to the throat cut. Though a slight flinch was observed when the blade first touched the throat, it was a much less vigorous flinch than that of a reaction to an ear-tag punch. The animals were so loosely restrained that they could have pulled away, but they didn't. Animal welfare researchers have found that on a physiological level, all stunning methods (a form of conventional slaughter) trigger a massive secretion of epinephrine, an amount which increases with improper use of the stunning method. Other research has shown that there appears to be a fear pheromone released in the blood by animals undergoing stress.

While many consumers have been made aware of the problems with meat from animals who have been given hormones, most are not aware that hormones also enter the meat "naturally" through the bloodstreams of stressed, fearful and hurt animals. Both domestic farm animals such as cattle, pigs and poultry, and lab animals such as dogs and rats, were studied to see how fear-induced secretions affected the meat and the eater of the meat. Fear experienced during the slaughtering process resulted in elevated levels of steroid hormones, generally associated with adrenal-cortical secretions. Primary substances included adrenalin, cortisone-like secretions, and steroids which stimulate fear pheromone production. These remain in the meat and are transmitted to those who eat it. Humans have been found to be particularly susceptible to their effects. This is thought to be the cause of at least two conditions; the onset of puberty in girls at abnormally earlier ages, and 50% of impotence not attributable to other causes. ...

A more alarming finding from a study in Britain found the more meat eaten by pregnant mothers, the higher the levels of stress hormone, cortisol, was found in the child. The study looked at children born in 1967-8 to mothers who were told to eat a pound of red meat a day to avoid pregnancy complications. The cause of the higher cortisol levels was not known; it is possible that the mothers who ate the most meat experienced more stress during the pregnancy. Correlations do not prove causality, but are red flags that call for more investigation.

Furthermore, the 'bleeding out' of the kosher slaughtered animal provides an additional protection against potentially infectious organisms which are generally transmitted in the blood. Though a lot of the fluids drain out, the meat is also soaked in salt in such a way as to remove most of the remaining fluid. No precautions of this sort are ever done with the normal slaughtering procedure. Conversely, normally slaughtered animals may be treated less gently, which often results in petechial hemorrhages, (small pinpoint hemorrhages visible on the skin or other membranes). Thus, the meat contains even more blood than that from the kosher animal.

The American Health Department found that each year, one in four Americans suffer from diseases caused by spoiled food. This is significant, given that the blood is where the bacteria grow. In regard to kosher poultry, cold-water plucking is done, which helps prevent the spread of salmonella bacteria.

read more here.


Robert L Brewer, DVM said...

This is a totally misleading article. I have been in slaughter plants all over the US for over fifty years. I have yet to see a kosher plant that is even remotely as humane as conventional slaughter. It just doesn't happen. Perhaps in a perfect world kosher slaughter might be as humane, but as it is done it is in no way as humane as routine non-kosher slaughter.

Anonymous said...

This is really interesting. My husband was raised kosher and still is, and it was these benefits that attracted me to kosher in the first place. And for a few years I ate kosher like my husband. But one concern that I have is the treatment of the animals before slaughter. From my own research it seems that most kosher animals are grain-fed and antiobitic-fed (versus healthy grass) and are factory farmed (versus free-range). So lately I've been buying grass-fed beef instead. But other than the label "grass-fed" I really don't know much - like how the animals were killed. I like how you buy your meat - from someone you know. I think this is really the only way to know the true quality - a visit to the farm.

It's interesting to think how so much religious philosophy that was written so long ago could not have predicted the conditions that we would live under today. I can only imagine that Christianity's philosophy regarding "dominion" and Judaism's laws regarding kosher would not have aligned themselves with our industrial farming practices.

GreenFertility said...

thanks for the comments

Anonymous said...

I have serious concerns about Kosher ritual slaughter of animals:
1. Kosher slaughter exploits animals. Far too many animals must be slaughtered to meet glatt or kosher requirements. Fitness can only be determined by post-mortem internal examination.
2. Kosher slaughter in the United States is wasteful. Because it is time-consuming and expensive to devein and denerve the hindquarters of cattle, the hindquarters are sold outright to the general public along with "trief" meat unfit for the kosher consumer.
3. "Trief" meat is not labeled. The general public is unaware meat being purchased was slaughtered under religious ritual; for example, two-thirds of products produced at Agriprocessors, the largest Glatt Kosher slaughterhouse in the U.S., is sold to stores such as Wal-Mart (visit their website).
3. Plants continue to shackle and hoist live animals. While large animals are usually slaughtered in pens to reduce injury to workers, small animals (calves, sheep, lamb) are shackled and hoisted prior to throat cut. There is no religious tradition for this method as it came out of a 1906 government regulation for public health reasons. There are pens for small animals that can replace the need to shackle and hoist a live animal. South America continues to shackle and hoist live cattle and the meat is imported to the U.S. kosher consumer.
4. Death is not instantaneous; there can be occlusion of arteries in cattle and calves which delays loss of consciousness. The USDA allows for a small hook to be inserted after the first cut to increase bleeding, all while the animal experiences pain and fear.
It is a barbaric practice, but if Orthodox Jews believe in that practice, our Constitution guarantees them that right. a consumer I resent the USDA foisting a religious practice upon an unsuspecting public. Without the purchasing power of secular America, kosher plants could not make a profit.

I am speaking to my legislators to amend the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act to prohibit the cruel practice of shackling and hositing of live animals; also, there needs to be a label showing if meat sold in supermarkets was slaughtered under religious ritual. It seems a federal agency (USDA) might be promoting a religious practice which infringes upon Constitutional rights of American citizens as to separation of church and state.

Dr. Temple Grandin has writtened from an animal welfare standpoint, stunning is better than live slaughter.

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