Monday, January 5, 2009

KOSHER: Overview

This section of SPOTLIGHT HALAL is dedicated to informing Muslim consumers about Jewish dietary law: When is it relevant to our needs? When is it not?

Muslims are a powerful consumer group—not just a sub-set of the "kosher consumer." Understanding when kosher helps us and when it hinders us from keeping halal is key to raising awareness with manufacturers, distinguishing ourselves as a market of our own, and driving the demand for halal food products.

KOSHER (kashrut, kashruth, kashrus, כַּשְרוּת) - simply means food which conforms to Jewish law (halakha, הלכה) and therefore is fit for eating by Jews. Jews who keep kashrut may not consume non-kosher food (treif).

Orthodox Judaism and Conservative Judaism hold that Jews should follow the laws of kashrut as a matter of religious obligation. Reform Judaism and Reconstructionist Judaism hold that these laws are no longer binding.

Who is The Kosher Consumer?
In 2006, over eleven million Americans spent $195 billion1 on kosher food - up from six million in 1990 - according to LUBICOM, a marketing and consulting group for kosher interests. Of this figure, one million Jews and three million Muslims consume kosher for religious reasons.2 That's three-times as many Muslims than Jews. No surprise when more than 80% of the estimated 8 - 11 million U.S. Muslims observe Islamic dietary standards, compared to a much smaller percentage of Jews who do. In fact, though still in its nascent stages, the U.S. market for halal foods is valued at $12 billion.

Kosher certification is not a perfect-fit solution for the large and growing Muslim consumer population. Generally, Muslims use kosher certification symbols as a tool to know if a product contains a substance prohibited by BOTH Jewish and Islamic dietary law, such as: blood, insects/vermin, pork or even a permissible animal that has not been slaughtered according to ritual slaughter. (Kosher-slaughtered meat is acceptable for Muslims to eat.)

Kosher: Under-serving Muslim Consumers
Despite the fact that Muslims outnumber observant Jews 3:1, within the "kosher consumer" group, the needs of Muslim consumers are under-served by kosher standards.

Related Topics:
Kosher v. Halal: What are the differences and similarities of kosher and halal?

What are the advantages to producing halal foods for companies already producing kosher foods?
A comparison of kosher and halal animals

Kosher: Meats

[1] Bushkin, Gary. "Kosher & Halal certification: natural products with a pedigree; How dietary preferences have changed the formulation of products in the nutraceuticals market now and for the future." Reprinted on from: "Kosher Halal Overview," Nutraceuticals World. March 2007. Retrieved April 10, 2009.

[2] Shinefield, M. Chabad Lubavich Global Network. "Jewish and Muslim Communities Cooperate to Pass US's First Kosher-Halal Law." October, 2006.
(Retrieved April 8, 2009)

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