Kosher Hindquarters Certification
After an animal is slaughtered according to Jewish law, and after it has been deemed "kosher” upon inspection, it is not ready to be eaten just yet: forbidden blood and blood vessels must be removed, as do forbidden fats, membranes and nerves. For thousands of years and until today, kosher cattle, sheep and other ruminants undergo this process, which is called "ניקור” [nee-KOOR] in Hebrew, "treibering” in eastern Yiddish, and "porging” in western Yiddish.
Niqur is required on both the fore- and hindquarters - the front and back parts of the animal, separated between the 12th and 13th rib. Jewish butchers and menaqrim (those who carry out niqur) are taught meticulously how to properly remove this forbidden tissue from kosher animals. The Talmud explains exactly which parts can and cannot be eaten. (Bavli, Masechet Chullin, Ch. 7, among other places.) Halachic works like Maimonides’ Mishne Tora (12th century) and Yitzchak ben Eli’ezer of Mumkatch’ Beit Yitzchak (19th century) give clear guidance to the kosher butchers of their time. Some items from the forequarter, such as the skirt steak, the hanger steak and the liver, require especially careful attention to ensure removal of forbidden tissue.
Leaving Half on the Table
The niqur of the hindquarter of the animal is more labor-intensive than that of the forequarter: the sciatic nerve is a particularly tricky part that requires precise removal. Based on the story of our patriarch Jacob’s fight with a messenger or angel, as described in Bereshit (Genesis 32:25-33), the sciatic nerve must be removed, as well as the forbidden fats and blood vessels in the area.
As the meat industry became more industrialized in the first half of the 20th century, it became cheaper to simply sell the hindquarters of kosher animals on the general market, than it was to expend the labor to prepare them for kosher consumption. From then on, Tenderloin, Sirloin, Round Roast and New York Strip Steak disappeared from kosher stores in most places around the world. In Israel, and in some Sefardi and Latin-American communities, this did not happen. And even in places like the United States, many shochtim (kosher slaughterers) still acquired the halachic knowledge and skills needed to carry out niqur.
For industrial beef today, it remains cheaper to simply "throw away” all the hindquarters on the general marketplace. KOL Foods, however, considers this a waste of wonderful meat, and a lack of respect for the animal. We have always believed that we should use as much of the animal as possible: "bal tashchit”, "do not waste”, we are commanded. [Read about our nose-to-tail philosophy]
Contemporary authorities like Rav Moshe Feinstein and the Orthodox Union state that halachically properly prepared meat from the hindquarters is 100% kosher. Read Rav Feinstein’s teshuva/responsum on the matter (in Hebrew). Read the OU’s Truth about Nikkor Achoraim and here and by Rabbi Jack Abramowitz.
Today’s kashrut institutions like the Orthodox union (OU) and the Chicago Rabbinical Council (cRc) work with knowledgeable menaqrim to ensure this tradition is not lost. Examples of this are Getting the Knack of Nikkur: an OU Kashrut Seminar and article found on the CRC website. The value of this tradition is clear to these leading kashrut organizations, even if they do not currently certify hindquarter meat.