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What is “Shechita” (Kosher Slaughter)?

The basic elements of a kosher poultry production 

The word “kosher” means “fit for use” or “fit for consumption” and is used most commonly with respect to food. The first five books of the Bible, known by Jews as the Torah, outlines many of these rules including the types of species that are permitted for consumption and those that are forbidden. Deuteronomy 12:21 states … "you may slaughter of your cattle and of your sheep, which the Lord has given you, as I have commanded you....” These “commandments” or instructions are contained in the oral law which accompanied the written Torah sometimes called the “Talmud.” 

Kosher slaughter, or shechita, must be performed by a trained expert who is pious in his personal life and well schooled in the laws of kosher. He is called a shochet. He uses a sharp blade called a chalef that may not have even the smallest of nicks that would cause unnecessary suffering to the animal if only for a split second.

For a live chicken to be suitable for kosher slaughter it cannot have any deficiencies such as broken limbs. As such chicken catchers are paid a premium for catching kosher chickens as the catchers must take care in corralling both legs of the chicken to ensure no broken limbs.

In the processing plant, the chickens are prepared for slaughter whereupon the act of shechita is performed by the shochet by severing the trachea, esophagus, carotid arteries, jugular veins and vagus nerve in a swift action that immediately renders the chicken insensible to pain.

After the slaughter, the chicken is placed on a conveyor system and left to hang so that the blood drains from the body. The chicken is de-feathered, but the de-feathering must be done at a cold temperature. Non kosher chicken processors de-feather with a hot scald but this is explicitly prohibited by kosher law because the hot scald is deemed to cook the blood into the meat of the chicken. Not only is the hot scald prohibited, but any equipment used to perform a hot scald for non kosher cannot be used in connection with kosher at all. This is one of the many reasons that kosher poultry cannot be killed in a facility that also kills non kosher poultry. 

After the chicken is de-feathered, a mashgiach (supervisor) will examine the chicken and remove any prohibited items and check for dislocated bones or torn tendons or holes in the chicken’s intestines that would render it non-kosher.

Afterwards, the chicken is soaked, salted and rinsed to take away any remaining visible blood. 

At this point the chickens are packaged and sealed with a kosher symbol on the packaging so that kosher consumers can be assured of the animal’s kosher status. As kosher is regarded with the utmost reverence, great care is taken to guarantee the integrity of the kosher process.

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