I’ve never been overly picky about my vegetarianism. I eat seafood, eggs, and often eat food cooked together with meat dishes as long as I can’t taste it. Gelatin is one of those ingredients that I usually try not to think too much about, considering how it is made. But when I was eating some yoghurt with “kosher gelatin” listed as an ingredient, I began wondering if that meant it was vegetarian. After all, it isn’t kosher to mix meat and dairy, right!? Well, it seems it isn’t so clear after all:
Kosher gelatin can be made from fish bones, beef, Japanese insinglass, agar agar, carrageenan, and Irish moss. According to the September/October 1989 issue of Viewpoint, a magazine from the National Council of Young Israel, “a tiny minority of rabbis permit pork gelatin as a kosher product!” Contrary to assumptions, it is also considered kosher to use animal-derived gelatin with dairy products. Unless it is specified as being derived from a non-animal source, such as agar agar and carrageenan, it is very possible that kosher gelatin is animal-derived.
The general meaning of “pareve” refers to foods that are neither milk nor meat, and many people assume this means that the product is vegetarian. However, pareve certified ingredients can contain animal products, such as fish and eggs. Kosher law is very complex and the bones and hides used in gelatin production, even if they are not kosher slaughtered, can be considered pareve by some koser certifying agencies.
This reminds me of a story a friend told me about a kibbutz in Israel which raises pigs and sells pork. Because this is illegal, they list the animals as “short-necked giraffes”!