Kosher beef is meat that has been handled and prepared based on Jewish dietary laws derived from the Torah. These laws dictate how the animal is slaughtered, which parts or the animal can be eaten and which ingredients can be used in preparing the beef. Jews may observe some or all of the dietary restrictions in their daily lives or around religious holidays. In some areas, it may be difficult or impossible to find kosher beef for sale, and it is generally more expensive than non-kosher alternatives.
The process of producing kosher beef begins in the slaughterhouse, where the cow is killed by a specially trained Jewish person who severs the throat of the animal with a sharp knife. The use of a bolt gun or electrical shock to stun the animal before slaughter is prohibited. The blood is then completely drained from the carcass, and the carcass is inspected for disease. Parts of the cow that are considered non-kosher are then removed. The rules governing this process are known collectively as the shechita.
Beef that has been slaughtered in accordance to the shechita is typically marked with a "K" on the package. This denotes any food that has been prepared under strict Orthodox Jewish law. This packaging also indicates that only “clean” animals have been used to prepare the product. For example, kosher beef hot dogs will not contain pork as a filler. Kosher beef products can be found at some grocery stores in the U.S. and are also available from specialty butchers in cities with large Jewish populations.
After kosher beef has been purchased, an observant Jew must follow several more restrictions to ensure that his meal will remain kosher. Under the dietary laws, meat cannot be mixed with milk or any other dairy product, either during cooking or on the plate itself. Separate utensils and cookware also must be used to prepare meat and dairy dishes. A Jewish person must be involved in the preparation of some types of meals for them to be considered kosher.
The dietary laws concerning kosher beef have been around for many generations and have their basis in the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy in the section of the Old Testament known as the Torah, though the Torah does not mention the specific rules. Not all Jews maintain this strict diet, particularly in the U.S. Some Jews will generally try to abstain from eating unclean animals and buying beef that is not marked as kosher, but they don’t actively avoid non-kosher restaurants or maintain separate sets of cookware in their homes.