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What Are Kosher Turkeys?

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  • Written By: A.M. Boyle
  • Edited By: PJP Schroeder
  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2016
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Kosher turkeys are those slaughtered and prepared for consumption in accordance with the Laws of Kashrus, thus making them clean, fit, and proper to eat in accordance with Jewish dietary laws. Kosher dietary rules are complex and extensive, and generally the average consumer is not in a position to determine if the turkey he or she purchases has been prepared in a kosher manner. Typically, therefore, if a turkey is truly kosher, it will carry the label or endorsement of a reputable kosher agency.

A turkey is one of several species of foul considered by Jewish law to be permissible to eat. Kosher turkeys, however, must be prepared in accordance with Kashrus regulations as derived from the Torah. The process involves a particular means of slaughtering, inspecting, preparing, and packaging the turkeys.

Kosher turkeys must be slaughtered in a process known as “shechita,” where a special, razor-sharp blade is used to sever the trachea and esophagus. This method is designed to minimize the turkey’s suffering and hasten the bleeding-out process. The procedure needs to be performed by a person specially trained and accepted by rabbinic authorities, called a “shocet,” and must be done with prayerful, religious intent.

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After slaughter, kosher turkeys are carefully inspected to make sure that the internal organs are free from any abnormalities that would make the turkey non-kosher. This process is called “bedika.” The specially trained person performing the inspection, called a “bodek,” must pay particular attention to the lungs, looking specifically for blemishes or adhesions that might cause the lung to be perforated, rendering the turkey unacceptable. This rigorous inspection process usually ensures an exceptionally high standard of quality.

The feathers are removed from kosher turkeys using cold water instead of hot water. The Torah forbids the consumption of animal blood, so all traces of blood must be removed from the turkeys. This process is called “koshering” and is generally accomplished through a combination of soaking and salting.

All loose internal parts are removed, and the turkeys are soaked in cool water for at least 30 minutes. A thin layer of coarse salt is applied to the turkeys both inside and out. The turkeys are then placed on an inclined or perforated surface, and the salt is left on for at least an hour to allow all the blood to drain completely. After this process, the turkey is soaked again for a period of time to remove all excess salt.

For kosher turkeys, the soaking and salting process must be done within 72 hours of slaughter. Afterward, the packaging of the turkeys should be carefully supervised, and a tag or symbol is affixed indicating that the turkeys are certified as kosher. The resulting kosher turkeys are not only fit to be eaten in accordance with Jewish laws and tradition but also are considered by many to be especially delicious because of the meticulous and conscientious preparation.

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