My “Beef” With Kosher Certification Agencies

Or perhaps I should say “My ‘plant-based meat substitute’ with Kosher Certification Agencies.” Photo by LikeMeat on Unsplash

Background

In Judaism, we have kosher dietary laws governing what we can and cannot eat. These are based on several places in the Torah and based a whole lot more on Rabbinic interpretation of the Torah text – which is how we get from “You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk” (Ex. 23:19Ex. 34:26Deut. 14:21) to requiring separate dishes and separate silverware for meat and for dairy. I am oversimplifying both the laws of kashrut and the derivation of halacha (Jewish law) a lot.

Now, if you want to ensure that everything you eat is kosher, there are essentially two ways you could do this. One option is to prepare everything yourself, from start to finish, to ensure that it’s done properly. But if you don’t want to grow every grain, fruit, and vegetable, and if you don’t want to raise cattle, dairy cows, and chickens or go fishing, you can purchase products with a hechsher (kosher certification). This means that a kosher certification agency has gone into the food processing facility, inspected all the ingredients and processing are kosher, certified that the food item is kosher, and allowed the brand owner to use their kosher certification logo on packages of food that met the criteria.

There is clear demand for kosher certified products. The kosher food market was valued at $19.1 billion in 2018 and the global kosher food market is projected to reached $28.6 billion in 2028, so there is incentive for more food producers to seek kosher certification for their products. In a perfect world, this is exactly what the kosher certification agencies would do – make more reliably kosher products available through objective criteria and rigorous inspections and supply chain audits.

Politics

You have probably guessed this, but we do not live in a perfect world.

We live in a world where we have kosher certification agencies feuding with each other (yes, even in Canada, which I think of as more peaceful place than the USA), reports of extortion as documented in Kosher Nation by Sue Fishkoff, and instances of kosher certification being denied to otherwise kosher establishments due to the presence of sit-down seating (which could lead to men and women intermingling) or their name. (To be clear, many people denounce the politics of kosher certification agencies.)

I think the decision by the Orthodox Union (the largest kosher certifying agency, often abbreviated as “OU”) to not certify Impossible Pork because of the product’s name falls into the same category of kosher certification agency’s losing sight of the mission.

Impossible Pork and The OU

The news that OU won’t certify Impossible Pork is over a month old, but it still annoys me which is why I am writing this post. Times of Israel reports (bolding in all quotes is mine):

“The Impossible Pork, we didn’t give an ‘OU’ to it, not because it wasn’t kosher per se,” said Rabbi Menachem Genack, the CEO of the Orthodox Union’s kosher division. “It may indeed be completely in terms of its ingredients: If it’s completely plant-derived, it’s kosher. Just in terms of sensitivities to the consumer … it didn’t get it.”

https://www.timesofisrael.com/worlds-largest-kosher-certifier-wont-endorse-impossible-pork/

The “sensitivities to the consumer” line makes me picture a stereotypical Chasidic man but clutching his pearls like an offended Victorian granny.

Reading further, it turns out that what Rabbi Genack really means is that their consumers are idiots:

But Genack said he and others at the OU recalled what happened when they once certified “bacon” that wasn’t made of pig.

We still get deluged with calls from consumers who either don’t get it or they’re uncomfortable with it,” he said.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/worlds-largest-kosher-certifier-wont-endorse-impossible-pork/

I have some sympathy for Rabbi Genack here. There have been times in my career when I have worked with our Customer Service team, and I can confirm that there are some deeply stupid customers out there. So I am sympathetic to the challenges of customer service dealing with confused customers.

I’ll even admit that the first time I saw kosher imitation bacon bits, I was pretty confused myself. Particularly because I was a naïve 10-year-old, and I was with my family at a Shabbat meal at the house of the Rabbi, who was not only known to keep kosher, but also to be a vegetarian.

So I did what every Jew is advised to do when they have a question about kashrut: I asked my local Rabbi (who, conveniently, was sitting right at the table) how this product could be. And he explained that the product was soy or some other plant-based miracle of food engineering and it was indeed kosher. Question answered! No need to contact the certification body.

You can see the little OU symbol indicating kosher certification by the OU towards the right side of the front label. To make up for using this product photo without permission, I’ll link to the manufacturer’s website and give my genuine positive review – I think these imitation bacon bits add extra crunch and flavor to a salad.

Unfortunately, the OU seems to be making its decision based on the will of the idiot customers:

The OU certifies other products that might seem to conflict with Jewish dietary law, explaining on its website that “a fish sauce may display a picture of a non‐kosher fish, the OU may appear on artificial crab or pork, or there may be a recipe for a non‐kosher food item on the label.” It even certifies other products that aim to replicate the pork experience, such as Trader Joe’s “spicy porkless plant-based snack rinds.”

But ultimately agency officials decided that a product called “pork” just wouldn’t fly, Genack said.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/worlds-largest-kosher-certifier-wont-endorse-impossible-pork/

That “‘pork’ just wouldn’t fly”? Is the OU now providing marketing consultation services in place of kashrut certification services? What happened to determining whether the food is kosher based on its ingredients and processing? Since when is it the OU’s role to help the marketing department decide whether a product name will be a hit with the kashrut-observant consumer?

The author interviewed two potential consumers deciding whether to try Impossible Pork:

For Held, the issues related to dietary law pale in comparison to the ick factor of consuming something that replicates one of Judaism’s strongest taboos — and even that isn’t enough to keep him away.

“The word pork is definitely a gross aversion to me,” he said. “But knowing it’s not [pork], I will try it.”

Rena Kates, an attorney in Baltimore, isn’t sure she will. Like Held, Kates keeps kosher and also uses ingredients, not an agency’s certification, as her guide for whether food is acceptable.

An avid consumer of plant-based meat products, she doesn’t think she can stomach Impossible Pork.

“I have this visceral reaction to it,” she said. “There is something about pork that is just triggering.”

https://www.timesofisrael.com/worlds-largest-kosher-certifier-wont-endorse-impossible-pork/

Based on these customer quotes, the OU Kosher Certification Marketing Consultation Agency may not be entirely wrong. But reading this, my immediate reaction is that the Times of Israel managed to pick the two least relevant people to interview for their “reaction of the customer” section:

  1. Neither of these consumers actually relies on a certification to determine whether or not they can eat something. Both customers are described as making the decision based on reading the ingredients.
  2. Neither of these consumers really answer the question of the importance of the name. Would these customers be totally fine with eating the exact same product labeled as “Impossible Por’k: Pork-Flavored Plant-Protein” instead of “Impossible Pork”? Or is it the very concept of the product that makes them uncomfortable, such that even if Impossible Pork decided to change their name and the OU decided to certify it, they still wouldn’t feel comfortable?
  3. Neither of these consumers really answer the question of whether the presence of kosher certification would change their feelings about this product. Would it make them more likely to try it, or would it make them lose respect for the OU because the product goes against their sensitivities?

It would have been a lot more interesting if the Times of Israel had interviewed one or more of the following:

  • A consumer who relies on kosher certification who is saddened about the decision because he/she would like to try Impossible Pork.
  • A consumer who relies on kosher certification who supports the OU’s decision because he/she thinks that a plant-based product named “pork” should not be certified and that if the OU were to certify it, he/she would no longer trust the OU’s certification.
  • A consumer who relies on kosher certification who does not think that a plant-based imitation pork product should be certified at all, regardless of the name, and that if the OU were to certify it, he/she would no longer trust the OU’s certification.

The latter two are of particular interest to be because I don’t identify with this mindset at all and am struggling to understand it. I read David Tzvi Kalman’s piece on JTA which seems to suggest that kosher-certified imitation pork would be a break from tradition. I think the tradition argument would have merit if we were talking about a tradition that has taken on a Jewish law status, eg. no longer observing a second day of Yom Tov outside of Israel, or G-d forbid, a question of certifying actual meat-from-a-pig pork! But this isn’t pork; this is a vegetarian soy protein imitation pork substitute that won a blind taste test. Also, we already have fake bacon. Fake crab. On Passover, when we cannot have leavened products, we have kosher-for-Passover muffin mixes and pancake mixes made out of matza meal, and we have kosher-for-Passover cakes made out of potato starch. By the way, I’m not knocking any of these – I love mock crab and kosher-for-Passover cake. Kalman seems to equate kosher-certified fake pork with using electricity on Shabbat (a technological innovation that allows for doing something once forbidden) but I’m struggling to understand why fake pork needs to be treated so differently from any other already certified veggie meat or veggie seafood product. Why this is the line that can’t be crossed.

I’m struggling to understand why mock pork should be treated so differently from mock chicken or any other meat. Photo by LikeMeat on Unsplash

Even Rabbi Genack of the OU seems to think this is a stupid line:

It was that reaction, Genack said, that swayed the OU’s decision-making — though he said Impossible Pork came close to carrying the agency’s label, and still could one day.

“It could have gone either way, frankly,” Genack said. He added, “This is something which we absolutely would be willing to review in the future.”

https://www.timesofisrael.com/worlds-largest-kosher-certifier-wont-endorse-impossible-pork/

I unsure if this makes me feel happy, that Impossible Pork could get certified, or dismay, that the decision is based so much on feelings rather than actual objective inspection and audit of the ingredients, processing, and supply chain to determine if the product is kosher. It’s not surprising that kosher consumers are making decisions on what is acceptable to eat based on the ingredients (as evidenced by the two people Times of Israel interviewed for the article) rather than the presence of a kosher certification symbol; it doesn’t sound like the OU is making decisions with any objective criteria either.

This means an impasse with Impossible Foods:

For Impossible Foods, the word “pork” is here to stay.

While Impossible Pork was originally designed for Halal and Kosher certification, we aren’t moving forward with those certifications as we wish to continue to use the term ‘Pork’ in our product name,” an Impossible Foods spokesperson told JTA in an email.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/worlds-largest-kosher-certifier-wont-endorse-impossible-pork/

This is actually a pretty considerable loss with potentially bigger implications than I think the OU appreciates. I’ve worked for companies that make consumer products. There have been times when we have pursued a third-party certification on our products. (Not food products in this instance and not kosher certification in my case, but similar concept.) Third-party certification is a time-consuming and expensive process, but if we feel it’s important to the consumer, it’s something that we’ve been willing to pursue. But if there was a possibility that the third-party certification agency wouldn’t certify our product, a product that otherwise meets the certification criteria, based on vague feelings around the product name, we’d be disinclined to work with the third-party certifier again. It would not surprise me if after their contract ends, if Impossible Foods decides to forgo OU kosher certification on other popular products, like Impossible Burger and Impossible Sausage. One would hope that Impossible Foods would find another kosher certification agency, but who knows. I don’t work there and can’t speak for them. This is pure conjecture and maybe Impossible Foods is happy to continue the relationship with the OU, in spite of the experience with Impossible Pork, because OU-certified Impossible Burger and Impossible Sausage have been so successful. I certainly hope I’m wrong.

41 comments

  1. I think politics will always remain a point of frustration for everyone, regardless of time. By definition, it was never about the facts, but about how we come to decisions as a people. However, I’d probably end up going off on a tangent if I continued talking about it.

    Regardless, I believe politics is mostly frustrating because of what it means when we say that it’s more about human interaction than it is about what we know. We generally tend to downplay the first relation to the second, ironically making it difficult to make decisions based on knowledge and fall onto making decisions based on a whim.

    I remember being once told by someone who was supposedly knowledgeable that I should stop doing something because it made Muslims look dangerous. I was doing parkour. For me, politics gone right is when I asked someone if I could help out with a mosque, so they directed me to someone who could find something for me to do, rather than telling me I had no experience for what they wanted.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You make so many good points here. Politics, at it core, should be about how to utilize limited resources, and I like your example of politics gone right. But so often, it is something else entirely. I think you are right that this wasn’t going to be a purely fact-based decision. There are times when tradition and potential for customer confusion do weigh in when making these types of decisions. I struggle with the non-fact-based decision-making generally because the line feels very fuzzy. It feels like it could go one way one day and another way the next. (Kosher-certified imitation crab, crab being another unkosher animal, has been available for at least a decade)

      I read that Impossible Pork didn’t get halal certification either. Have you heard anything about the rationale? What are the reactions in your community?

      Also, you do parkour? That is so cool!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I haven’t heard about it, but I have looked it up. Those that don’t certify it apparently do so for the same reason as kosher companies in that it makes them look bad. The community seems to be reluctant to try it too, even if it was labelled permissible.

        I can understand their reasoning from a religious point though. The first is specific towards Islam. It’s wrong to imitate disbelief, so although the food itself is permissible, it seems to be infringing on another aspect of the religion. The second is more dependent on intention. If it was denied because they cared about reputation, then I’d disagree. If they denied it out of principle, then I’d agree because of the first reason.

        Also, parkour makes getting from A to B fun when the obstacles are there 😁

        Like

        • We also have religious laws against products that are or look deceptive, so that is a valid point about a kosher/halal acceptable product potentially violating other laws.

          Impossible Pork isn’t available in retail packaging yet, so I can only look at the retail packaging of Impossible Burger and Impossible Sausage, both of which say, in pretty large font on the front, that they are made from plants. If Impossible Pork were packaged similarly with similar front-pack copy, I don’t know that the imitating disbelief/deceptive element would apply here any more that it would to the already-certified Impossible Burger and Impossible Sausage (Interestingly, Impossible Sausage makes their health and environmental benefits comparisons vs. sausage made from pork https://impossiblefoods.com/products/sausage/spicy-14-oz). But I also have no idea what the packaging is since the product is only being sold via wholesale to restaurants and foodservice currently. It is certainly possible that the packaging could have been more confusing and deceptive than what was described in this article.

          Parkour sounds so cool. How did you get into it?

          Liked by 1 person

        • Not sure about the deceptive aspect, but from a imitation outlook, pork was never permissible to begin with, so I imagine that actively seeking pork-flavoured food would likely fall under imitation.

          I started parkour as a way of breaking a bad gaming habit when I was younger and it seemed cool. Slightly different from free-running, so not as cool though because parkour is about getting from A to B as efficiently as possible, whilst free-running is about how cool you can look while doing parkour e.g. with backflips or butterfly kicks. Unfortunately, I don’t get much opportunity to make use of it, so I don’t get to refine it as much as I’d like to.

          Liked by 1 person

        • That’s very interesting re: acceptability of imitation pork products from a halal perspective. Historically, it has been acceptable in Judaism to have a kosher fish (eg. pollock) flavored with kosher ingredients to mimic the taste and texture of something else eg. crab or shrimp, which are not kosher. So that is a difference of opinion.

          I love your parkour story. I have never tried it and can’t really picture trying it where I live but I always thought it sounded cool in concept. Good luck with it!

          Liked by 1 person

  2. When I first heard of this product line, I wished I could have asked my childhood friend Michael about it. He came from a Reform Jewish family. He always brought a home-prepared lunch to school that his grandmother made. The grandmother was a dietitian when she was younger. That meant that Michael learned a lot about Kosher by osmosis from his daily interactions with her.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is a cool memory.
      I still think that the less-observant individuals that that Times of Israel writer interviewed weren’t particularly relevant for this article. However, it was interesting for me to hear about how these individuals still felt such a reaction to the idea of eating an imitation pork product. I keep a kosher home, but I don’t feel this kind of reaction to the idea of eating an imitation pork product. I suppose that food has emotional ties with people as well.

      Liked by 1 person

    • That’s how I feel. I think a lot more customers will lose respect for the certification (as evidenced by the consumers who make decisions based on reading the ingredients and not on the certification logo) and I think more food producers will see the certification as a racket rather than a meaningful third-party certification that consumers care about.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s a too complicated for me. Politics screw up everything. Maybe they should do like the Africans. When my wife’s parents were in Cameroon, they asked a native what the name of an animal was. He responded “Food!”

    Liked by 1 person

        • One might think, but there’s actually a ton of rules with fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables have to be inspected with extra care. Any equipment used to cut fruits and vegetables can’t have been used on something non-kosher. There are additional laws for grape products so anything containing grape flavor, grape juice, wine-derived vinegar, etc. has additional complications. The laws of kashrut are way more extensive than what I describe here!

          I actually wouldn’t expect the OU or any other certifier to certify a vegan product as kosher just because it’s vegan. It is absolutely plausible that there could be something in the ingredients, processing, or supply chain that could render the product unkosher according to the laws of kashrut.

          My issue with the OU here is that in this case, it doesn’t sound like there was an actual issue with the kashrut in the ingredients, processing etc. leading to the rejection. The rejection was based purely on feelings around the product name.

          Liked by 1 person

        • It’s amazing they can keep track of it all. It is stupid to reject a properly processed food over the name. Let the consumers decide if they want to buy it or not based on the name.

          Liked by 2 people

  4. Unfortunately, I don’t think the decision of the ou on the ‘pork’ thing was politics. They’re just not being consistent. If they’re going to give a hechsher to soy ‘bacon bits’, or imitation shrimp and crab, they probably should have done it here too. I agree that something with the name ‘pork’ may turn off the kosher consumer, but why not let the kosher consumer decide. If people don’t like the name, or how it looks, they won’t buy the product. The manufacturer would then probably change the name.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fair point. I confused two different issues with kosher certification agencies in one post. You are probably right that the Impossible Pork decision has nothing to do with politics in the way other past decisions by other agencies may have.

      Exactly – I can imagine that there are individual kosher consumers who won’t want to buy the product, either because of the name or the entire concept. That’s fine. Maybe there are enough consumers such that Impossible Pork will feel compelled to update the name or the marketing copy to make it even more obvious that the product is 100% plant-based. I don’t think that the OU should be trying to force that outcome by denying certification based on the name. The inconsistency is frustrating.

      Like

  5. What a trip reading this, learning about a subject that I knew little about, and now I totally get your frustration, JYP. So why has humor flown out the window these days!? Has irony left the building?🤔Language can be a porker. What’s in a name, eh?! But pork is pork is pork, especially if it’s an impossible pig that doesn’t exist. Such are the chimeras and bogeys of the mind. Or should I say, the sensibility?
    pax,
    dora

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow, you’ve educated me a lot about Judaism and things about it I never really knew or understood. Huh. It’s interesting to wonder what the word of God meant about the foods, because if you’re eating something that tastes like pork, but it’s not pork, would God be troubled by this or would God be, like, pass the impossible pork? I’m not trying to be glib, I’m really wondering. I’d think this would be important for anyone to answer within themselves! Of course, that’s easy for me to say as I was raised Christian, and we freaking eat everything. Like, seriously, everything. Your religion seems much stricter and more orderly, I guess. I’d think or hope offhand that God wouldn’t mind if you were to eat something that you believed to be acceptable. I know in Christianity, for example, taking communion of the body and blood of Jesus is totally symbolic. Everyone knows it’s a wafer and wine. So maybe with eating kosher, it’s also the effort or good intentions that counts? Not like I have a clue. [Shakes head.] It’s an interesting topic. And I realize your blog post was more about, like, the process of labeling something as kosher or not, but I’ve never stopped to think about being unable to eat anything for religious reasons. I went off gluten for a year because I suspected I have gluten ataxia (I still think I have it), and halfway through the year I ate a bag of chips that didn’t list gluten anywhere in the ingredients, but I could taste it, and my gluten-deprived body reacted to it. Ugh. I know from that year-long experiment how hard it is to limit what you eat at all times. The kosher thing must be a huge sacrifice, and I’d hope that God appreciates your efforts as Jewish people. At any rate, thanks for the insght into your religion!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks – I hoped that this post would make some sense to someone who is not Jewish.

      The acceptability of the food from a kosher perspective has been based not on taste but on ingredients/processing, etc. Actual bacon is not kosher, but it’s been possible to have kosher-certified fake bacon (really some kind of soy product that mimics the taste of bacon) for decades. Crab isn’t a kosher animal, but kosher-certified pollock (a kosher fish) flavored to mimic the taste and texture of crab has also been around for a long time. On Passover, there are tons of restrictions on leavened products like cake, bread, grain-derived ingredients, etc. But it’s possible to make a cake out of potato starch and tapioca starch that looks just like a cake (admittedly, this does not taste like normal cake at all) that is totally acceptable for Passover. I think that’s why the OU’s position on Impossible Pork feels so weird and inconsistent. The concept of kosher-certified food designed to mimic non-kosher food is not new.

      The system of Jewish law is Judaism’s best attempt of taking the commandments in the Torah and expanding upon them with enough detail that they can be clearly followed in day-to-day life. But to be honest, I have no idea what G-d thinks of any of this.

      I’ve not had the experience of having to avoid a certain food for a health-related reason. I’ve found that it’s really easy to avoid the foods I was brought up to avoid for religious reasons, but when, as an adult, I tried to observe the kosher rules to a stricter degree, it really never stuck and I ultimately couldn’t stick to keeping anything much beyond what I grew up with. I have met a lot of people who have become more strict around what they don’t eat for religious reasons, but I’m not one of them.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I don’t have a dog in this fight personally, but find the subject very interesting. If it were me though, I personally wouldn’t eat it because I’d feel like it was circumventing the spirit of the rule. But I can see there are two sides to this issue.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think there are two different questions:
      1) Would “you” as a kosher-observant consumer eat Impossible Pork?
      2) Should the kosher certification agency certify Impossible Pork (assuming that the product would pass the normal kosher inspection process – if the product fails the kosher inspection/audit process, this is a non-issue because of course the product isn’t kosher in that case) if the product is named “Impossible Pork?

      I’m not personally in the camp of people who would answer “no” to #1, but I’m sympathetic to it. I’m the kosher consumer who enjoys imitation crab, imitation shrimp, imitation sausage egg & cheese sandwiches, etc. but I get that not everyone is in that camp, and I don’t think anyone should eat something that makes them feel uncomfortable.

      I’m less sympathetic to “no” from the kosher certification agency to #2 (assuming here that the product is in fact kosher). These decisions have consequences and it’s very inconsistent vs. previous position from the OU.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Now that you’ve written this comment, it’s clicking more in my head. If the substance itself passes the inspection, then it would stand to reason that it should be declared kosher. If not, then I’d think the other items which had cleared the process should not have been declared kosher. Otherwise, it is, as you say, inconsistent.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yeah, I realize this is confusing and I didn’t do the best job of explaining it.

          A counterargument could be, well if enough consumers felt it violated the spirit of the law even if the product were technically kosher, and if the certified kosher, consumers might lose trust in the certification agency. I don’t know that so many consumers would think that in this case, in part because other kosher imitation products have been around for so long.

          Liked by 1 person

  8. Reblogged this on Beit Sarah and commented:
    I would like to present a somewhat opposing opinion on the matter. Years ago, I was a vegan. In those days, it was super difficult to find something delicious to eat that was fully vegan. All the processed vegan food items in stores had ingredients lists that were super long, most of which were almost unpronounceable. The reason for many of these ingredients was to simulate as closely as possible the flavor of the real thing. i always wondered why people who were interested in their fake sausages tasting just like the real thing not just go ahead and eat the real thing. It was probably easy for me to think and feel that way because I found the taste of processed pork products disgusting to my taste buds. Being a vegan was not sustainable for me at that time, so I only stuck to it for about 1.5 years. I haven’t completely forgotten my vegan roots, and it integrates very well into my kosher diet; nevertheless, I will take a hard pass on the fake pork and imitation seafood no matter how many hechsher certifications they received. I have nothing to say about anyone who chooses to eat these products. It is their choice, but perhaps too many people are relying on taste when it comes to keeping kosher rather than kedushah (holiness). Here is the danger: once you get people to start liking the flavor, where does it end? How long will it take for some to decide that eating the real thing is okay. I am speaking of Jews. They Goyim, of course, can go ahead and eat whatever they want to satisfy their appetites, but to the Jew, food represents a way to maintain holiness.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for sharing your thoughtful comment. It’s also interesting to hear about the influence of your past vegan experience on your kashrut observance. It seems that you’re not alone on the discomfort part. Although I don’t identify with the discomfort with kosher-certified imitation seafood and imitation pork, I appreciate that not all kosher consumers feel that way.

      That said, I think there is a pretty considerable difference between expressing personal discomfort with the concept of imitation pork and saying that a product that is otherwise kosher shouldn’t be certified because of that discomfort. The latter is actually creating an entirely new tradition. One of the reasons why I disagree with David Tzvi Kalman (https://www.jta.org/2021/10/06/opinion/judaism-often-thrives-on-new-technologies-that-doesnt-mean-impossible-pork-should-be-kosher) on this is because he seemed to be proposing an entirely new tradition in which the kashrut laws of permitted/prohibited animals be applied to products which are entirely vegan. I respect tradition, but I don’t believe that inventing new traditions is the way to keep our tradition or keep the spirit of the laws. Keep in mind that kosher-certified imitation bacon and kosher-certified imitation pork have been around for a long time; to say that these should not be kosher-certified is a reversal of a long-standing tradition, not the upholding of an existing one.

      One other thought about the holiness and kedusha of keeping kosher. For me, I actually feel a bit more spirituality when eating an Impossible Burger with cheese, a Beyond Sausage egg & cheese sandwich, or an imitation crab sushi roll. I’m well aware of the fact that what I’m eating is a kosher-certified imitation specifically because the original product would not be kosher, and the knowledge that I’m doing something different in order to uphold the laws of kashrut gives it more meaning for me.

      I think that kosher certification helps to prevent that slippery slope of people making random decisions that could lead to violation of the laws. Kosher certification provides that objective authority that the product was produced in accordance of the laws. Certainly, no one has to eat every certified product out there – there are other factors besides kashrut that affect what people choose to eat (eg. health, vegan, cost, etc.) and that is fine. But I think the system of kosher certification has been successful for consumers and food producers in increasing availability of kosher products specifically because certification is based on rigorous objective inspection and supply audit criteria, not on the personal feelings of the inspector.

      Like

      • You make some very valid points. Thank you so much. I love to understand where folks are coming from. You are right about making up new traditions when so many are already missing out on the richness of existing traditions. This is a very good topic because a number of Jews I know are surprisingly ignorant of the kosher laws. Some weren’t raised kosher at all. To them, keeping kosher is a burdensome thing, and they miss out on the holiness aspect. Hopefully, opening the conversation on the topic can help others who aren’t at the moment, take more interest in keeping kosher.

        Liked by 1 person

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