How The OU Moved Kashrut – And Modern Orthodoxy – To The Right

Marc Shapiro writes in the Forward:

…It was the O.U.’s move to glatt [only, in the 1970s], however, that had a truly momentous impact and changed the religious landscape of American Orthodoxy. Other hashgachot soon followed the O.U.’s path, leaving supervision over regular kosher in the hands of hashgachot that in many people’s minds were regarded as less reliable. Even if these hashgachot were, in truth, completely dependable, the fact that they agreed to certify meat that the O.U. and others would not reinforced the idea in people’s minds that there were problems with regular kosher. It took just a few years following the O.U.’s decision before regular kosher was no longer regarded as acceptable in American Orthodoxy.

Yet this is not all there is to the story, and here things get even more interesting. The very meaning of glatt kosher in the United States is not what most people think, namely, meat that has no adhesions. While this is indeed the original meaning of glatt and the meaning most people identify it with, the word as used today means something more expansive, depending on which kashrut organization you ask.

For some, it simply means that they hold themselves to a very high halachic standard in all areas of meat production. For others, it means that they permit only a couple of small, easily removed adhesions, a type of glatt that was actually quite common among Hasidim in prewar Europe. One thing that is certain is that glatt in the United States does not mean that an animal’s lung is completely smooth. Sephardim, who are supposed to eat only real glatt, are under normal circumstances not permitted to eat the typical “American glatt,” and they therefore have their own special “Beit Yosef glatt.”

While the kashrut organizations have not exactly hidden this information, and will tell you the truth if you ask, they have not been exactly forthcoming about it either. There is, for example, no explanation on the O.U. Web site as to what it means when it stamps a product glatt. The closest you get is an article titled the “The Kosher Primer,” which explains that real glatt is free of all adhesions on its lungs. The primer does acknowledge that, “Recently, the term ‘glatt kosher’ is increasingly used more broadly as a generic phrase, implying that the product is kosher without question.” Yet there is no clarification that the O.U.’s glatt falls into the second category — which also explains how the organization believes it appropriate to certify “glatt chickens.”…



Filed under Haredim, Jewish Leadership, Kosher Business?, Kosher Meat Scandal, Modern Orthodoxy

8 responses to “How The OU Moved Kashrut – And Modern Orthodoxy – To The Right

  1. Elizabeth

    Rabbi Allen is a vegetarian. He encourages his congregants to go this route, too. Why is he on this committee? He has no assistant rabbi to help pick up the slack. Rabbi Allen is so busy with all his social action committees, he doesn’t have time to give to his congregants.

  2. NoDemonstrations

    The word glatt appears on chicken packages only because the firms use the same logo for beheima meat packaging as for poultry. No one is certifying chickens as glatt.

  3. Nigritude Ultramarine

    glatt == big buck$


  4. SS

    You don’t know what you are talking about. Look at any chicken certified by the OU. It says glatt. There is no logo. It is on the package itself and on the box, and this applies with companies that don’t even sell behemot.

  5. NoDemonstrations

    I stand corrected. I actually have a bottle of ARAK marked certified glatt kosher by the OU (who is just relying on Rav Mordechai Eliyahu’s grandson if my memory serves me correctly). The particular brand of OU certified chicken I used to buy came from a firm that also sold glatt behema meat and used the same label wrapper for poultry as for behema – which happens to be the case with a Satmar brand of deli meat as well.

    Still, nothing sinister. Just a misuse of the term glatt to mean kasher lemehadrin, which is common on the US Jewish “street.”
    Not misleading to those who are in the know (if anything, it is harmlessly funny) and those who are not in the know would not notice anyway.

  6. B”H
    Nissim, You don’t get it. The term “glatt” (smooth) on the Arak cerifies that the mashgiach personally drank it and assures us of it’s “smooth” taste.:-)

  7. NoDemonstrations

    LOL! This is the sharpest arak I have ever had, and if what you say is the case, the mashgiach must have had far too much to drink!

  8. Wake Up, people. WAKE UP…….

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