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Kosher meat

Why Kosher Meat Is a Healthier Alternative

Thursday, January 03, 2008 by: Cathy Sherman
Tags: kosher meat, kosher foods, health news

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(NewsTarget) Many health-conscious people have decided to refrain from eating meat. Additionally, many humane-conscious people have eliminated meat from their diet. Both groups have good reasons for their decisions. Interestingly, on some of the points, their reasons intersect with each other. The intersection results from the issue of how the animal's emotions before and during slaughter affect the nutritional quality and safety of the meat.

There are three major issues involved with kosher meats. Kosher meats are those listed in the Bible as derived from animals deemed edible for the Jewish people. Any animal with a cloven hoof that chews its cud is allowable; conversely, those which lack both of these characteristics are forbidden. Cattle, sheep, goats, and deer are examples of kosher mammals. Horses, dogs and pigs are forbidden. Birds are allowable according to custom, but generally, it seems that birds of prey are forbidden. Chicken, quail, and doves are kosher; eagles are forbidden.

The second issue in regard to kosher meats has to do with the way the animal is slaughtered. The Bible is clear in its instruction that Jews are not to eat the animal's blood. It is also taught that man is not to cause the suffering of any other living thing. As a result, from the time of the giving of the instructions, a procedure has been carried down through the generations detailing how the throat is to be cut and the blood drained immediately. The cut is to be swift and sure, done with a knife that is always to be kept sharp and free of nicks. Done correctly, a kosher slaughter causes very little or no discernible suffering to the animal.

Unfortunately, in recent months there have been instances at one large kosher slaughterhouse in which humane treatment has been lacking. Also, some kosher meat is imported from South America, in which less than humane procedures might be used. For these reasons,the consumer might want to check on the origin of the meat he or she is considering purchasing.

Both the animal and the slaughter must fit within the kosher rules. Both conditions must be met. Many people think any beef is kosher, but it is not if it was slaughtered in the most common way, which is not always humane and after which the blood is not removed.

The kosher slaughtering procedure has been shown to have direct results on meat quality. The purpose of this article is simply to point out these types of results. The author in no way intends to sway anyone to any specific religion. The intent is to point out that if a person still wants to eat meat, but is concerned with humane issues, he/she might want to consider trying kosher meats. Also, if a person is eliminating meat for health reasons, but really misses his/her burger, kosher ground meat might be an occasional treat to consider.

There has been much media coverage of the conditions of slaughterhouses and the disturbing treatment of animals by mainstream packing plants. Although such plants are regulated by the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (1979), the regulation on how many shots to the brain allowed is five. That means an animal can be shot five times in the head before it collapses. With kosher slaughter, the carotid arteries, the primary blood suppliers to the brain, are severed. Because the loss of blood is so great, as is the drop in blood pressure, the animal is rendered insensate almost immediately. Studies have shown an unconscious state occurs within seconds. This has been determined by checking certain physiological criteria related to the eyes, tongue and tail.

The humane treatment of animals is important on a nutritional level too. Kosher slaughterers are extensively trained in how to treat the animal, the knife and the actual cutting. In the observance of a kosher slaughter done correctly, a gentle and calm approach on the part of the slaughterer has been observed to result in little or no reaction to the throat cut. Though a slight flinch was observed when the blade first touched the throat, this flinch was much less vigorous than that of a reaction to an ear-tag punch. The animals were so loosely restrained that they could have pulled away, but they didn't. Animal welfare researchers have found that on a physiological level, all stunning methods (a form of conventional slaughter) trigger a massive secretion of epinephrine, an amount which increases with improper use of the stunning method. Other research has shown that there appears to be a fear pheromone released in the blood by animals undergoing stress.

While many consumers have been made aware of the problems with meat from animals who have been given hormones, most are not aware that hormones also enter the meat "naturally" through the bloodstreams of stressed, fearful and hurt animals. Both domestic farm animals such as cattle, pigs and poultry, and lab animals such as dogs and rats, were studied to see how fear-induced secretions affected the meat and the eater of the meat. Fear experienced during the slaughtering process resulted in elevated levels of steroid hormones, generally associated with adrenal-cortical secretions. Primary substances included adrenalin, cortisone-like secretions, and steroids which stimulate fear pheromone production. These remain in the meat and are transmitted to those who eat it. Humans have been found to be particularly susceptible to their effects.

These hormones are thought to be the cause of at least two conditions; the onset of puberty in girls at abnormally earlier ages, and 50% of impotence not attributable to other causes. Since farmers have largely stopped the administration of hormones to animals, it would be expected that the impotency effects and abnormal teenage development patterns would decrease instead of increase. Recent studies have documented a marked increase. Whether this finding causes alarm or not in the consumer is up to each individual; further ramifications must be looked at more closely.

A more alarming finding from a study in Britain found the more meat eaten by pregnant mothers, the higher the levels of stress hormone, cortisol, was found in the child. The study looked at children born in 1967-8 to mothers who were told to eat a pound of red meat a day to avoid pregnancy complications. The cause of the higher cortisol levels was not known; it is possible that the mothers who ate the most meat experienced more stress during the pregnancy. Correlations do not prove causality, but are red flags that call for more investigation.

Another study found that animals which experienced stress during and prior to a ten-hour period before slaughter, produced meat with depleted muscle glycogen stores. They also can develop high pH meat which is dark, firm and dry, has less pronounced taste and has poor keeping quality. In pigs, if the stress is experienced immediately before slaughter, muscle pH falls rapidly as anaerobic metabolism occurs and pale, soft and exudative muscle results. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN has stated that animals must be stress and injury free prior to slaughter so that glycogen reserves are not depleted. The highest levels of glycogen in the muscles lead to the maximum level of lactic acid in the meat. The lactic acid retards the growth of spoilage-causing bacteria that could possibly contaminate the carcass during slaughtering and processing.

Furthermore, the 'bleeding out' of the kosher slaughtered animal provides an additional protection against potentially infectious organisms which are generally transmitted in the blood. Though a lot of the fluids drain out, the meat is also soaked in salt in such a way as to remove most of the remaining fluid. No precautions of this sort are ever done with the normal slaughtering procedure. Conversely, normally slaughtered animals may be treated less gently, which often results in petechial hemorrhages, (small pinpoint hemorrhages visible on the skin or other membranes). Thus, the meat contains even more blood than that from the kosher animal.

In any discussion about the meat that is produced for market, it is important to keep in mind that there is not enough oversight for slaugherhouses. Consumers are putting a lot of trust in slaughterers, both kosher and non-kosher, to treat the animals right, to select healthy animals, and to follow all required procedures. There is ample evidence to indicate that many in the meat industry are not living up to the ethics of their profession.

Other issues in regard to kosher meat and health include those dealing with shellfish and pork, and the mixing of meat with dairy. Each of these is an entire discussion in itself. The most important consideration, no matter what you choose to eat, is that you are mindful of what you are consuming. There is still a growing body of evidence indicating that abstaining from all kinds of meat is really the healthiest route to go.

For extensive information on the slaughter of animals for meat, go to the website of Dr. Temple Grandin, (http://www.grandin.com) .

About the author

Cathy Sherman is a freelance writer with a major interest in natural health and in encouraging others to take responsibility for their health. She can be reached through www.devardoc.com.

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