Kosher Gelatin: Innovation and Tradition

Kosher gelatin, a common ingredient in a wide array of food products, desserts, candies, yogurts, vitamins, and pharmaceutical applications, has been transforming the culinary and health landscape offering kosher solutions for both consumers and manufacturers.

What is Gelatin and Why is Kosher Gelatin Needed?

Gelatin is derived from collagen, a component of the skins and bones of animals [or fish]. This protein has unique properties, such as its ability to bind water to other ingredients, stabilize foams and gels, and impart a smooth taste to foods. It’s indispensable in the food industry. However, the origin of gelatin creates issues for vegetarians and those who adhere to kosher dietary laws.

Kosher Gelatin Sources

To address these challenges, OU Kosher has defined the meaning of kosher gelatin. It is derived from kosher animal sources, kosher slaughtered and processed bovine sources, or kosher species of fish.

  • Bovine Gelatin: OU Kosher certified companies like Food Industry Technology (FIT) and Italy-based Lapi Gelatine are at the forefront of producing high-quality bovine gelatin and collagen from the hides of glatt kosher cattle. FIT, recognized for its commitment to quality and innovation, employs advanced techniques to ensure that the kosher standards are meticulously maintained throughout the entire production process. Lapi Gelatine, with its rich Italian heritage, combines traditional methods with modern technology to produce collagen that meets the stringent requirements of the kosher market.
  • The hides for these products are collected from kosher slaughtered animals, mainly in regions renowned for their kosher meat quality. These hides are then salted and subjected to rigorous purification processes in adherence to Jewish dietary laws. Once the raw materials are prepared, companies like FIT and Lapi Gelatine utilize cutting-edge machinery and precise techniques to produce kosher animal gelatin and collagen.
  • Fish Gelatin: Created from kosher fish skins, this form of gelatin has been essential in kosher marshmallow production. However, its lower gelling strength does not make it suitable for applications like yogurt.
  • Plant-Based Alternatives: Leading in this space are companies like OU Kosher certified Cargill and Danisco (a part of DuPont). Cargill’s plant-based gelatin is derived from various botanical sources, processed to achieve a texture and consistency that closely mimics traditional animal gelatin. It is highly regarded for its sustainable sourcing and has found applications in desserts, confectioneries, and other food products that require gelling properties.

Danisco, another innovative producer, offers a range of plant-based gelatin solutions that have been certified by OU Kosher. Utilizing cutting-edge technology, Danisco produces high-quality alternatives, often utilizing pectin or other plant-based polysaccharides, that cater to the growing demand for vegetarian and vegan-friendly products. Their plant-based gelatins are used across a wide range of food and beverage applications. Both Cargill and Danisco have made significant contributions to broadening the accessibility of kosher-certified plant-based gelatin options, aligning with evolving consumer preferences and dietary needs.

Challenges in Producing Kosher Gelatin

  • Inspection and Certification: Ensuring that the fish skins used are from kosher fish requires stringent inspection and Rabbinic oversight.
  • Yogurt Production: While fish gelatin was found suitable for marshmallows, it lacks the required level of “bloom” for yogurt production. This led to the development of gelatin from non-slaughtered beef bones, a practice that was eventually stopped.

Other Uses and Kosher Certification Challenges 

  • Vitamins: Oil-based vitamins are often encapsulated in gelatin to protect the oil and the pill. This poses questions regarding kosher status.
  • Pills: Gelatin may be used to coat pills or encapsulate liquid medicines. Some rabbinical authorities regard this gelatin as inedible and of no concern, while others advise caution unless the person is desperately sick.
  • Cost Factor: Kosher gelatin is generally more expensive, making it mainly prevalent in products marketed to the Jewish market. Mainstream companies often choose non-kosher gelatin, which raises issues in certifying products made in plants using non-kosher gelatin.

A Solution for Kosher Food Production 

Kosher gelatin, though complex in its sourcing and applications, presents a vital solution for those adhering to kosher dietary guidelines. It embodies a harmonious blend of innovation and strict adherence to tradition. For food manufacturers, understanding the nuances of kosher gelatin production and application allows for broader market reach and alignment with consumers’ ethical and religious beliefs. Collaboration with kosher certifying agencies ensures integrity, quality, and adherence to the intricate laws governing its production and use.

Gary Magder