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Treifa - Glatt Meat

Rav David Brofsky


Today's shiur is based, mostly, on one given by Rav Doniel Schreiber, and adapted by David Silverberg.


  1. Tereifot


     We are not going to discuss the actual techniques of shechita (ritual slaughter), but will leave that to the professional. However, certain basic concepts should be understood, which will also give us a better understanding of a distinction that appears in kosher butcher shops, between "regular" kosher and "glatt" kosher.


Animals and fowl (but not fish) must be slaughtered according to the method prescribed by the Torah, which basically consists of severing the trachea (the windpipe) and the esophagus (foodpipe) with un-notched knife. The laws of shechita are extensive and complicated and we will not describe them here. An animal which has died naturally or been killed in a different manner is called a "neveila," and is prohibited. A live animal is prohibited under a different category, that of "ever min ha-chai," which includes meat or other portion of a live animal, even if it has been severed from the animal. (We previously pointed out that eating eggs or drinking milk required a special dispensation in the Torah excluding them from this category.)


There is another prohibited category, which has lent its name colloquially to the entire list of prohibited foods. A "treifa" is an animal that has a specific injury or defect that basically will lead to its death, even though it is still alive at the time of shechita. Such an animal, even if slaughtered properly, is nonetheless prohibited, as are its milk or eggs. The mishna in Chullin lists the different kinds of treifa, which basically consists of a long list of defects in various organs of the animal or fowl.


The mishna in Chullin (42a) lists eighteen categories of "tereifot," terminal illnesses in an animal that render its consumption forbidden.  Included in this list is "ha-rei'a she-nikva" - a punctured lung.  (Other examples include punctures in the esophagus and cerebral membrane.)  In light of the prohibition against eating the meat or drinking the milk from a treifa, and given the eighteen potential causes of this status, does halakha require checking an animal for all eighteen defects after slaughtering it in order to ascertain its suitability for consumption?  In fact, why may one ever drink milk - should we not be concerned that the cow from which the milk was produced was a treifa?


     The Gemara in Chullin (9a) cites the view of Rav Huna establishing a "chezkat heter," a basic assumption of an animal's suitability, once the animal is properly slaughtered.  Apparently, according to Rav Huna, there is no need to check an animal after slaughtering; and we may presume its meat to be kosher.  Wherein lies the basis for this leniency?


     In order to understand Rav Huna's halakha, we must first examine the background information relevant to this issue.  The Gemara in Chullin (11b-12a) cites a dispute among the Tannaim regarding a case where a "rov"(statistical majority) exists warranting a lenient ruling, but the situation lends itself to clarification and the resolution of the doubt.  Rav Meir holds that the Torah allows following a rov only when no possibility exists to resolve the given doubt.  Chachamim, by contrast, maintains that even when the possibility of clarification exists we may rely on the statistical majority.  We must therefore address two questions: first, which position does halakha accept; secondly, if we adopt the lenient, majority view, do we assume that most animals are healthy and do not suffer from one of the defects that would render them a treifa?  If we indeed accept the majority position as well as this assumption, then we arrive at Rav Huna's ruling: once an animal is slaughtered, its meat may be assumed to be kosher without checking for the various indications of a treifa status.

     Rashi (Chullin 12a) rules in accordance with the opinion of Chachamim, that we may follow a "rov" even when the possibility of clarification exists.  This halakha originates either from a halakha le-Moshe mi-Sinai (tradition dating back to Sinai) or from the verse introducing the principle of relying on rov ("acharei rabim le-hatot" - Shemot 23:2).  The Beit Yosef (Y.D. 39), Bach and Shakh write that all the Rishonim and poskim follow this ruling of Rashi.  Thus, one need not check for the eighteen indications of tarfut after slaughtering an animal.  As the Tur (39) and other Rishonim (in Chullin) explain, the rov allows us to assume that as most animals are healthy and do not suffer from one of these illnesses, the animal before us is kosher.


  1. Lungs


     However, Rashi adds one exception this rule: one must check animals for perforations in the lungs, as this particular disorder is more common.  Apparently, as the Shakh (Y.D. 39:8) explains, although, a slaughtered animal is presumed healthy and free from all eighteen defects, Chazal instituted that one should first check the lungs, when possible, to ensure that they are free of ruptures.  Although this provision appears nowhere in the Talmud Bavli or Yerushalmi, all authorities after Rashi accepted this stringency.  As indicated, however, this provision applies only when the possibility of checking the lungs exists.  When checking becomes impossible, such as when the lungs were lost , we resort to the initial assumption of the animal's health, as established by Rav Huna.  Indeed, Rashi, the Rambam and Rosh hold that in a case where the lungs are lost the meat may be eaten.  (Other Rishonim, however, disagree, though for technical reasons - see Shakh, Y.D. 39:8.)  For this reason we may drink milk without concern. Since it is   impractical to check the lungs of the live cows used for milk, we may rely on the initial presumption of the animals' kashrut, without checking their lungs.


     In any event, we have seen that halakha requires that an animal's lungs be checked to ensure that they contain no perforations.  What are the guidelines governing this examination, and what forms of defects in the lungs render the animal a treifa?


     The Gemara in Chullin (46b) cites Rava as postulating that if two lobes of the lung cleave to one another by fibrous tissue, then we assume the animal to be a treifa. This applies, however, only to two non-adjacent sections of the lung (e.g., an adhesion forms above or beneath the lung connecting the two exterior sections).  If two adjacent sections cleave together, this adhesion is considered natural and does not render the animal a Treifa.  The Gemara does not clarify, however, whether or not the animal requires checking in this second case.  Do we permit the animal immediately without concern, or must we check such a lung for punctures?  The Rashba and the Ran maintain that such an animal does not need any checking and may be assumed kosher.  This is the ruling of the Mechaber in the Shulchan Arukh (Y.D. 39:4).  Tosafot, however, citing Rabbenu Gershom, as well as the Ritzba and the Semak, explain that checking is required.  The Rema adopts this position.


C. Checking adhesions


     The Shulchan Arukh (Y.D. 39:1) requires checking the lungs for adhesions, referring to one who fails to do so as a "poretz geder," someone who breaches accepted standards.  (This formulation emphasizes the point that this examination is only a Rabbinic requirement.)  In se'if 10, the Mechaber adds that even a minuscule adhesion between non-adjacent lobes renders an animal forbidden.  He observes the practice of some to squeeze the adhesion and consider the animal permissible if it is easily crushed.  The Mechaber writes that one who follows this practice is considered as "having fed Jews tereifot."


     The Rema, however, cites authorities who uphold this practice, claiming that the sort of  adhesion that renders an animal forbidden would not disintegrate even when squeezed for an entire day.  Although this position constitutes a "kula gedola" (an extreme leniency), the Rema writes, the practice has become widespread in Ashkenazic communities.  As this leniency has authorities on whom to rely, one should not object to its implementation.  The language of the Rema makes it clear that he prefers not to rely on this position.


     The Rema then addresses the scope of this leniency. Does it apply to all adhesions, or only to those connecting two adjacent lobes?  The Rema claims that one should not employ this leniency in case of two non-adjacent lobes, when according to all views an actual adhesion renders the animal a Treifa.  Only an adhesion connecting two adjacent lobes, regarding which, as we have seen, there is a dispute as to whether it requires further checking, lends itself to this leniency. Despite his opinion restricting the use of this examination, the Rema observes that in Cracow (where he lived), the practice of squeezing adhesions as a means of checking was implemented in all cases.  The Rema agrees to allow this leniency only in instances where a substantial financial loss would otherwise be incurred.


     In se'if 1, the Rema rules that when an adhesion was found and squeezed, the lung should then be inflated and placed in lukewarm water to see if any bubbles form.  This would ascertain the absence of any perforations in the lung.


     Thus, with regard to examining adhesions by squeezing, we find three positions: 1) the prevalent Ashkenazic custom; 2) the view of the Shulchan Arukh and the Sefardim; 3) the view of the Rema.


     With regard to adhesions between non-adjacent lobes, the Ashkenazim would allow checking by crushing the adhesion and then soaking the lung, as described.  The Sefardim, however, automatically consider an animal with such adhesions a Treifa.


     With regard to adhesions between adjacent lobes, however, the Shulchan Arukh (39:4) and the Sefardim rule leniently, as mentioned earlier, permitting consumption of the animal without any further checking.  The Ashkenazim, however, require that this adhesion be checked through the methods of crushing and soaking, as described earlier.


     It thus turns out that in some instances the Sefardim have adopted the more stringent position, whereas in other cases the Ashkenazim rule more stringently.


     The Rema, however, adopts the most stringent position, viewing the practice of squeezing adhesions between two adjacent lobes an extreme leniency that should preferably not be employed.  In all instances of adhesions, then, the Rema would consider the animal a Treifa.  We should add that many other Ashkenazic authorities, as well, ruled against examination by crushing adhesions.  These include the Vilna Gaon (who would not even eat from utensils used in the preparation of meat that had been permitted based on this leniency), the Noda Bi-Yehuda, and the Shela.  Additionally, at times those who perform the examinations of adhesions crush them with force, rather than gently; even those who generally permit checking adhesions through squeezing would not allow an examination of this type (see Taz 39:17; Rav Chayim of Volozhin, Chut Hameshulash 20; Chatam Sofer Y.D. 39).


     Today, the kashrut certifications under Sefardic auspices (particularly the "Chalak Bet Yossef" certification in Israel), as well as the "mehadrin" standard supervision of the Ashkenazim, more or less adhere to the stringent positions of both the Rema and the Mechaber, This type of meat is called "glatt," meaning "smooth," as the lungs had no adhesions whatsoever. In most localities in the United States, all kosher meat nowadays is glatt.


     Clearly, in view of the reluctance with which the Rema was prepared to allow examination of the adhesions, it is preferable to use only glatt meat. However, those who conduct themselves leniently in this regard have authorities on whom to rely, and one should not object to those who do so.


     No such issue of glatt applies with regard to poultry.  The lungs of chickens are attached to the spinal cord and thus cannot be checked.  Furthermore, their lungs have no lobes, and hence no adhesions form.  Sometimes, the word "glatt" is used to indicate a superior level of kashrut supervision in general, which is why you may sometimes find "glatt" chickens, although technically no such thing can exist. (I once even saw "glatt" fish, though I have no idea what that could possibly mean). In Israel, "glatt" chickens have been salted inside and out (although outer salting is sufficient), and also are slaughtered at a slower rate, to allow the slaughterer more time to do a proper job. Non-glatt chickens are, however, kosher by normal halakhic standards.


           Other issues of tereifot occasionally arise, though not on the consumer level.  For instance, a few years ago it was discovered that milk cows were being given injections directly into their lungs, which naturally involved a perforation. The question arose whether this should render all the milk in the United States non-kosher. Another problem arose in connection with injections given chickens. For this reason, the kashrut supervisory organizations must stay on top of all developments in animal husbandry. Since this is a changing field, we can reasonably expect more interesting questions in the future.


Next shiur, we finally get into the home kitchen. We shall be discussing "kashering" - purging the forbidden blood, specifically how to kasher liver.

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