The Right Coast

January 02, 2004
Kosher Meat and Mad Cow Disease
By Michael Rappaport

It is often been claimed that the rules for Kosher food had an important connection historically with safety. Others, however, have denied this connection, claiming that kosher rules mainly reflect religious considerations.

It is fascinating how Kosher meat continues in the present day to appear to be safer. Consider this report from the New York Times:
    Kosher beef might be safer than nonkosher because the animals are killed by having their throats slit, rather than being struck or shot in the head, which can scatter brain tissue through the blood stream. Kosher processors have never used "downers" — cows that cannot walk — a possible sign of mad cow disease. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman yesterday banned the use of downers for meat. [However] Rabbi Menachem Genack, head of the division that certifies products as kosher for the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, said the feed given kosher animals "is essentially the same" as that used for conventional cattle.
Although I am just making an informed speculation here, Kosher beef may be safer in another way. Some of the problem with the agricultural rules is that they have not been enforced strictly (such as the ban on feeding spinal cord tissue to cattle). It is quite possible that the rules in place for Kosher beef are complied with more than are government regulations.

Despite these advantages for Kosher rules, there are also disadvantages. For example, it is not Kosher to consume pork, but meat from pigs appears to be free of the disease.