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In Melbourne Shabbat begins Fri 26 May 2017 04:53 PM and ends Sat 27 May 2017 05:52 PM

Can battery chickens be Kosher ?

כ"ח כסלו ה' אלפים תשס"ט

Q. Under laws of Kashrut as I perceive them, an animal must be healthy and must suffer as little as possible. How then do caged chickens qualify under either of the above? I have seen the creatures that are taken from the cages. They could not be less healthy and still live. Are there free range kosher chickens? As human beings who believe in a G-d above can we continue to allow this?

A. The Kashrut authorities are not in the business of actually raising, supplying and selling kosher poultry and meat. We simply provide the service of processing them as Kosher.  In Australia, as in most Western Countries, the Kashrut authorities therefore rely on the government authorities to monitor the farmers and suppliers as to how they treat and handle poultry and animals. If the law of the land, as enacted by a basically just and democratic government, allows various practices we are not obliged to be any stricter than that  particularly if this would threaten supply of kosher meat to the community. Of course, once they are involved in the process, our shochtim and other staff co-operate to ensure all the relevant government regulations and guidelines are followed.That being said, once the poultry is under the control of our staff we also then operate under our own guidelines. Poultry (and animals) that are found to be maimed or diseased are indeed often considered by Jewish law as not being kosher (there are strict guidelines in the Codes governing this). Both the shochtim and mashgichim are therefore required to check for various injuries and also for diseases of the internal organs before they are able to ultimately declare the chicken kosher. Anything found at the time of killing or afterwards not to comply with the Halachic guidelines governing injuries and disease are indeed rejected even if government regulations would not call for this. The problem with free range chickens is that there is a prevalence of internal organ damage (lacerations, ulceration etc) caused mainly by the chickens ingesting stones, nails and all sorts of strange objects in the course of their free range feeding. These birds are also much more open to various natural avian diseases. These injuries and diseases often render the chicken not kosher according to the guidelines mentioned above as set down in the codes (and despite the political correctness of advocating free range chickens as the ideal, I have seen these injuries and there is no doubt they probably cause them considerable discomfort that is actually spared the caged chickens who are on strictly controlled diets). Due to the extraordinary prevalence of these injuries that have been found on inspection after free range poultry have been kosher killed, at the moment it is simply a matter of practicality and economics not to kill them kosher in the first place.

As mentioned above, we are strictly a kosher service organisation and are not in the business of raising or selling poultry.

However, if anyone was concerned enough to finance and take responsibility for the careful farming, provision and processing of a free range variety we could certainly supply the staff to process them kosher . I believe that one of the kosher suppliers (based in Sydney?) is already processing what is claimed to be hormone free poultry – so that’s a start towards are more natural supply.

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