Perhaps the most significant difference between regular-kosher and mehadrin is in the meat. There are many criteria that determine whether meat is mehadrin. Let’s begin with the most basic: mehadrin meat is always glatt.
So what exactly is glatt?
Checking the lungs
Any animal that has a punctured lung is considered treif (non-kosher). A puncture in the lung usually gets covered with an adhesion or scab called a sircha. Therefore, a sircha found on the lungs is suspected of covering up a puncture which can render the entire animal treif.
Sephardim vs. Ashkenazim
Not all sirchot are equal. There are certain areas of the lung, where a sircha will not make the animal treif. However, there are differing opinions as to the extent of these areas. The Sephardi view (following the Beit Yosef) is more lenient – that is, according to them, there are more areas where a sircha can exist without affecting the kashrut. As a result, sirchot on certain areas of the lung can be ignored by the Sephardim, while those same sirchot will make the entire animal treif for Ashkenazim (following the Rama).
On the other hand, Ashkenazim are more lenient in handling those sirchot found on the critical areas of the lung (where they can make the animal treif). The Rama allows for these sirchot to be removed by gentle peeling or squeezing, and if the lungs are then checked and found to have no perforations, the meat is considered kosher. The Beit Yosef strongly disagrees with this procedure stating that it is not permissible to remove sirchot in any manner and thus they always render the animal treif.
Some Ashkenazim follow another leniency whereby certain small, thin sirchot which can be easily removed, are considered ‘ririn’ (mucous) and do not affect the standard of kashrut (Beit David), regardless of where it is located. Sephardim do not make this distinction.
Glatt (Yiddish for ‘smooth’) is used to indicate that the lungs had no punctures or sirchot at all. Here again, there are differing opinions as to what constitutes glatt, each with its own stringencies and leniencies.
Regular glatt means that no sirchot were found in the critical areas of the lung as defined by the Rama. However, there may have been one or two negligible sirchot (‘ririn’) which is still considered glatt for Ashkenazim but not for Sephardim.
Chalak Beit Yosef or glatt bli ririn means that there were no sirchot at all in the critical areas – not even the ‘rir’ that is permitted by the Ashkenazim. However, since the critical areas of the lung are defined according to the Beit Yosef, it is possible that there were sirchot in those areas that are problematic for Ashkenazim.
It would seem from this that Ashkenazim cannot eat the Sephardi meat because there may have been sirchot in the areas that make the animal treif according to the Rama, and the Sephardim cannot eat the Ashkenazi meat because it may have had ririn which is not permitted for Sephardim. However, Rav Eliazer Melamed writes that today, ‘chalak’ meat means that “the stringencies of both the Shulchan Aruch and the Rama are kept, because if only the stringencies of the ‘Bet Yosef’ were kept, there would be animals that are not ‘chalak’ according to the Rama, and sometimes even ‘treifot’. This was the directive of the Rishon L’Tziyon, Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu ztz”l – that ‘chalak’ certification must include the stringencies of both the ‘Bet Yosef’ and the Rama must be kept at the same time.”
Kosher meat which is not mehadrin, relies on halachic leniencies in order to render the meat kosher. A sircha that was found in a critical area and removed according to the view of the Rama, is one such leniency. The meat will be considered kosher but not glatt. The Rama himself admitted (YD 39) that this is a “great leniency” but since “it is already the custom of all the people of these countries, one should not protest against them since they have what to rely on, but the bodek [lung inspector] must be G-d fearing …”.
The problem is that unless we know the shochet (slaughterer) or the kashrut supervisor, we cannot tell which other leniencies were relied upon. Perhaps, there were sirchot in areas of the lung that make the animal treif for Ashkenzim, but are acceptable to Sephardim. Rav Yaakov Dovid Lach, in his book Sefer Temunei Chol on Masechet Chullin writes: “… it is important to note that the “kosher” (non-glatt) meat product available today is generally inferior in all areas of kashrus supervision, and its consumption is not necessarily included in the Rama’s leniency.” (p. 163)
Is there such a thing as glatt veal?
The classifications of glatt and regular kosher, applies only to mature livestock. The leniencies of the Rama do not extend to young calves (who are still nursing), lamb, deer and other young animals. In a strict sense, veal, for example, can be either glatt or treif and there can be no non-glatt kosher lamb chops. Nevertheless, the term glatt is sometimes used in conjunction with these other meats. What does that mean?
It seems that some rabbis, in order to increase the supply of ‘kosher’ meat, bend the rules past what the Rama intended and apply his leniencies regarding sirchot also to calves and lambs. This practice is contrary to what the Rama himself wrote. Perhaps that is why some producers label veal or lamb as glatt, so that we know that these leniencies were not applied to them. Read more about “kosher veal” in Rabbi Kaganoff’s article, “What Makes meat Kosher”.
The fact that meat is labeled glatt does not guarantee a high standard of kashrut. In fact, it may not be kosher at all. There are many factors which determine the level of kashrut, not just the condition of the lungs. For more on this, see the article ‘Beware: Glatt May Not Always Mean Kosher’ by Rabbi Moshe Heinemann. Here we will just quote his concluding paragraph:
Integrity and reliability, not “glatt,” “super-glatt,” or “Bais Yosef-glatt” labels or signs, should be the true guidelines for the kosher consumer. All too often, the conscientious homemaker gets caught up in hearsay, fancy advertising, and fallacious claims without bothering to separate fact from fiction. Therefore, it is always advisable to purchase meat that has been endorsed by a respectable rabbinic authority or respected kashrus organization. It is certainly advisable to purchase meat and poultry from a butcher who displays genuine integrity and commitment to Torah and mitzvos, along with his reliable supervision. – Rabbi Moshe Heinemann
Today we can find on the market glatt chicken, glatt fish, glatt lettuce and even glatt bean sprouts! The use of the term glatt for anything besides meat is clearly a misnomer.
Sometimes glatt is used to imply a higher standard of kashrut. The badatzim in Israel, for example, label their chickens glatt to indicate that they examine the chickens more thoroughly than others. But sometimes the word glatt is used merely to promote a product and has no special meaning regarding the kashrut.
As Rabbi Heinemann said, the kosher consumer should be guided by the integrity and reliability of the certifying agency, rather than by “glatt” labels and signs.
- Mehadrin meat is always glatt.
- Glatt halachically means there were no sirchot on the lungs.
- There are some differences between Ashkenzi glatt and Sephardi glatt. Today, (at least in Israel) most glatt meat abide by the stringencies of both, so that everyone can eat it.
- Regular-kosher (non-mehadrin) meat may rely on any number of halachic leniencies such as the removal of sirchot.
- The term glatt should not be relied upon unless it is certified by a reliable kashrut authority.
References and related links:
Glatt vs Regular Kosher Rabbi Eliezer Melamed explains the difference between regular kosher and glatt meat.
The Mehadrin Alternative An overview of what a mehadrin certification is all about.
Shechita A summary of issues facing kashrut supervisors in modern day slaughterhouses, by Rabbi Yisroel Belsky, Halachic Consultant for the Orthodox Union’s Kashrut Division.
Beware: Glatt May Not Always Mean Kosher Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, Star-K Rabbinic Administrator, describes some of the factors that make meat kosher besides glatt lungs.
“What Makes Meat Kosher?” Rabbi Yirmiyohu Kaganoff explains some of the major differences between the various kashrut certifications