The Role of the Shohet
and Kosher Butcher

by Rabbi Daniel Schur

The kosher consumer should be aware that there are many complex laws regarding conditions that would make "Trefah" (non-kosher) a kosher animal that was properly slaughtered. The shohet, the Kosher butcher and the Rabbis who supervise them must have a thorough understanding of these laws.

The Shohet is required to carefully examine the lungs and the internal organs of the animal, after it is slaughtered, especially if there is reason to suspect that they may not meet all the many and complex criteria set forth by the Jewish codes of law. Discoloration, disease, internal injuries, limb fractures, etc., will often render an animal "trefa" (non-kosher) from the point of view of the Jewish law.

The Kosher butcher must also possess special skills and take special precautions if the Kashrus of the meat delivered to him is to be preserved as kosher. Fresh meat, for example, that has not yet been soaked and salted cannot be kept after slaughter for longer than seventy-two (72) hours without being washed down. This is to prevent the blood from drying up and congealing, thereby rendering useless any subsequent soaking and salting.

Unless a butcher has sold his meat within the specified time period, he must be conscious about the washing. The Kosher butcher must possess the butchery skill to purge or excise certain blood vessels and fat sinews that may not be eaten. This must be done before the meat is koshered.

The butcher must be relied upon to perform such responsibilities, not only skillfully, but honestly and with integrity.

The Torah forbids the blood of all animals and fowl, whether the blood is in liquid form, or is part of the muscle, tissue, bone or fat. "You shall not eat any blood, whether it be fowl or beast."

Many know that Kosher meat must undergo a process called "Nikur" and be trabored. Most people are puzzled as to the precise procedure of this process. The Hebrew word "nikur" and its Yiddish equivalent "trabor" means "to dig out". In the case of meat it refers to the requirement for excision of the veins, arteries and forbidden fats. The Torah forbids the eating of "chailev", the restricted fats of animals.

In addition to the blood that would be extracted by the soaking, salting, koshering process, blood remains pooled in major arteries of the animals, and, if left intact, this blood would not be extracted by salting. Therefore these arteries must be severed and exposed before koshering, in order to permit the free flow of blood from them, by soaking and salting. Rather than merely severing each of these blood vessels, it is imperative that they be removed completely from the neck, the shoulder, the foreleg, the ribs, the brisket, the naval area and tongue.

This painstaking Kashrus process of preparing meat for koshering requires training, skill, piety and integrity. The removal of the forbidden veins and fats is a painstaking task, and this entire koshering process requires a high degree of religious responsibility, anatomical knowledge, skill, and training. The selection of a kosher butcher should be based primarily on these professional criteria. The kosher consumer must be able to rely on the religious responsibility of the individuals involved and upon their dedication to Kashrus.

Meat that has been ground before koshering may not be consumed and considered "tref" (non-kosher) since it is impossible to rinse each particle, nor may be koshered since the particles can no longer be properly soaked and salted.