Kosher Industry Profile
By Michael Boland, University of Minnesota.
Updated February 2012 by Malinda Geisler, content specialist, Iowa State University, email@example.com.
Kosher foods are prepared based on the Kashrut, Jewish laws dealing with the “proper” diet outlined in the Torah and the Old Testament. There are many detailed laws in the Kashrut such as meat and dairy must remain separate, both in production and consumption. Animals must be deemed clean animals and killed according to the laws of the Kashrut. All blood must be drained or cooked out of meat before consumption. Bovine or cattle are considered kosher animals because they are ruminant animals, chew cud and have cloven hooves. If an animal does not possess these distinctions, it is forbidden to be eaten.
The animal being slaughtered must be without disease or flaw. The origin of the animal is a concern to kosher production. Kosher meat is purchased from producers that are deemed disease-free. Locations with known cases of Mad Cow Disease (BSE) and Foot-and-Mouth Disease are not acceptable suppliers. The animal must be conscious when slaughtered and sedation is prohibited. Kosher production prohibits the use of any drug, hormone, antibiotic or miscellaneous protein that is administered or added to the feed of an animal. After slaughter; the lungs and organs are immediately inspected for lesions indicating illnesses. If significant lesions are found, especially ones attached tightly to the animal's tissue, it is deemed not kosher, or Treifah, meaning “torn” or “flawed.” “Glatt Kosher” is a term to describe lesion-free meat or lesions that can be removed by a “flick” of the finger (Wikipedia). Inspectors also inflate the lung with air and submerge it in water; if air escapes in the form of bubbles, the meat is deemed not kosher (Orthodox Union or OU). Kosher requires routine cleaning to remain capable of use for kosher. Hot water, steam and heat are used to sterilize equipment.
During kosher slaughter, or Shechita, the person who performs the slaughter, known as the Shochet, uses a special slaughtering knife. The knife is razor sharp and is inspected after each slaughter for flaws as the inspector runs his finger over the blade. The Shochet cuts horizontally across the throat, slicing through the trachea, esophagus and carotid arteries of the cattle. This causes the animal to become unconscious and spill the majority of the blood within seconds (OU). The cattle are then raised up, letting the remaining blood drain; this process is known as kashering. Consumption of blood is prohibited according to Kashrut so the meat is broiled, soaked or salted within 72 hours to ensure removal of any remaining blood. In addition, specific fats known as Chailev, the sciatic nerve and major arteries are required to be removed as they do not meet kosher standards. Unfortunately these are difficult to remove. The difficulty and labor required causes many slaughterers to sell the hind quarters as non-kosher.
In 2000 there were approximately nine million regular kosher consumers in the United States with a potential of 36 million people. A 15.2 percent growth in kosher foods was realized between 1997 and 2002 with the market in the United States reaching $11.5 billion. In 2008, sales of kosher foods totaled $12.5 billion, according to a report by Mintel. UNIGLOBE Business and Marketing Solutions reports U.S. supermarkets have 25,000 kosher product lines. Food manufacturers including Coca-Cola, Frito-Lay, Kraft and General Mills have at least some food products certified kosher.
There were more than 25 million kosher consumers worldwide. The Jewish population accounts for the majority of the kosher foods market. Forty-four percent of the kosher market is Jewish consumers. The worldwide population of Jews was approximately 13 million. In 2011, the American Jewish population totaled 6.59 million. Another 27 percent of kosher consumers are categorized as being diet conscious.
Nineteen percent of the kosher market is Muslim who consume food certified as Halal and follow Islamic law, which is similar to kosher foods but not identical. For example, in animal slaughter Islamic regulation requires pronouncing the name of God throughout the slaughter while Jewish regulation does not.
Sixty-two percent of respondents to a recent study by Mintel Organization International stated they buy kosher for its food quality. The second most common reason to purchase kosher food was general healthfulness with 51 percent. The survey of 2,500 adults found 14 percent of respondents indicating religious rules as the reason why they purchase kosher food.
A company must apply for kosher certification. Applications can be completed online by filling out a short questionnaire providing the company name, contact information and the nature of the product the company produces. Soon after, a Rabbinic Coordinator contacts the company and acts as a guide through the kosher certification process. The guide answers questions and focuses on the needs of the certification process. The application is reviewed. Depending on the area of production, a Rabbinic Coordinator is assigned to supervise certification of the company. The Rabbinic Coordinator or Rabbinic Field Representative visits and inspects the facility, estimates the fees of kosher certification and outlines necessary actions and procedures needed for the company to take to become kosher. Costs depend on the distance the representative travels, the frequency of visits required, complexity and the number of products. After inspection, the Rabbinic Coordinator completes a report and any issues are addressed and resolved. After a contract is approved and signed, a company receives its kosher certificate. Additional certification is required for kosher for Passover. Field representatives knowledgeable in the field of production visit the facility regularly and a Rabbinic Coordinator inspects annually.
- Consumers See Quality in Kosher, Gourmet Retailer, 2009.
- Jewish Population of the United States, Jewish Virtual Library.
- Marketing to Ethnic Segments: Kosher Products, Penn State, 2006.
- Orthodox Union - At their Web site, this kosher certification agency explains how products are inspected to achieve kosher certification.
- Studies Shine Spotlight on Growing Kosher Market, Progressive Grocer, 2007.
- UNIGLOBE Business & Marketing Solutions
- Wise Organic Pastures, Brooklyn, New York - This food distributor offers certified kosher and organic poultry (chicken and turkey) and beef. Their Web site includes a list of U.S. stores carrying Wise products.
Developed January 2006 and updated February 2012.