Most recently I wrote about halal food for Muslims. Would it surprise you then, that kosher is very similar - and that two distinct groups of people, with different religions, share similar eating practices. That is what Jewish and Muslim people are all about.
The boom in kosher foods
For those who don’t know, from a historical aspect, both Jewish and Muslim people have a common father of faith – Abraham. The shift occurs when it comes to Abraham's sons, with Muslims following the line of Ishmael and the Jewish, Isaac. Having said that, the food habits are interlinked because of their common views on God.
Read more: What is halal and why is it big business?
So what does kosher mean?
The word kosher is Hebrew for “fit” or “appropriate”. It describes the food that is suitable for Jewish people to eat. With its roots in the Hebrew Bible, the system of defining which foods are kosher was developed by the rabbis of late antiquity.
According to the Torah (Leviticus 11), only certain kinds of animals are considered inherently kosher.
For land animals, any creature that both chews its cud and has split hooves is kosher.
For sea creatures, any fish that has both fins and scales is acceptable.
And when it comes to birds, only those approved by the Torah are acceptable, or others that later authorities have judged to be like them, a list that excludes scavengers and birds of prey.
In addition, it is repeated three times in the Torah that it is forbidden to cook a baby goat in its own mother’s milk.
To consume kosher land animals and birds, it is necessary to slaughter them in a prescribed way, in a manner that has been described as a more humane method that is practised commercially.
Whether a particular food is considered kosher or not usually has to do with whether any substance or product used in its manufacture was derived from a non-kosher animal, or even an animal that is kosher but was not slaughtered in the prescribed manner.
Rabbinic supervision of the production of food (a practice called hashgacha) enables it to carry a “seal of approval”
Three categories of kosher foods
Dairy: These are foods, such as cheese, milk, yogurt, ice cream, etc.
Meat: This includes all kosher animals and fowl slaughtered in the prescribed manner, and their derivative products.
Pareve: Meaning neutral, this describes foods that are neither dairy or meat, such as eggs and fish, tofu, nuts, seeds, fruit and vegetables -- provided they are not prepared with any milk or meat products.
Pareve holds a large share of the consumer market -- tipped to account for more than 60 percent value share in the global Kosher food market by 2025 and enjoy a massive increase of 230 basis points during the forecast period.
Kosher product demand is also increasing thanks to its preference by vegetarians, the health-conscious, those suffering lactose intolerance and celiac disorders.
Lactose-intolerant consumers often seek the kosher-certified symbol knowing that, according to Jewish laws, these products will not come into any contact with dairy or meat ingredients.
So, are halal products and kosher products the same?
Well, the answer is yes and no. In many ways they are. But they are different as well.
Here are three examples of how they are different:
Fruit and vegetables
Muslims - considered halal;
Jewish - considered kosher only if there are no bugs in them.
Meat and dairy
Muslims - can be consumed together;
Jewish - cannot be consumed together
Muslims - prohibited;
Jewish – allowed, provided it is from kosher ingredients.
In the end, kosher products are all about one’s religious preference and not something scientifically classified. But, if you look at it closely, being kosher does have its health benefits.