Friday, March 28, 2008


Last night, my son came back from his first overnight field trip. One of the lowlights, the way he tells it, was a visit to a kosher butcher where chickens are slaughtered. While most of the boys crowded around the butcher to watch how a chicken is shechted, my son reports that he stood in the back and could not look. The sight of all that blood on the floor and all those dead chickens was enough to make him a vegetarian (but he thinks he can still enjoy his mother’s cholent).

I probably would have reacted the same way.

How did we get so squeamish?

(Some say that kosher shechita is the most humane way to kill an animal. See the video below and decide for yourself.)

A better question: is our squeamishness a cultural advancement or setback?

I remember when I was a kid, I thought that kosher meant that the food was blessed by a rabbi. What it really means is quality control. My brother Keith, the award-winning science reporter for NPR in Seattle, is visiting this week with his family and tells me that the FDA is trying to figure out how to deal with the mushrooming level of food imports from Asia, especially China and India.

What kinds of foods are we importing from India?

Spices. Evidently, the spices that you buy in those little jars may contain certain ingredients not on the label, such as pieces of dead insects. Hard to inspect that many millions of pounds of curry powder!

Which gets me thinking: do most people care about this issue? If I told you that your dinner contains turmeric which contained .01 percent finely chopped insect parts, would you care? What if I told you that there was a fair chance that it contained finely chopped insect parts?

Well, I guess it’s hard to eliminate or even lower the element of chance.

Unless, of course, it has that (U) or (K) in it, or “Star-K” or the like.

(Sorry, the © sign doesn’t help.)

Shabbat Shalom

PS – Not so squeamish? Here’s an excellent interview of a kosher shochet:

PPS – to learn more about the kosher supervision industry, see

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