Daf ha-kashrus

Cholov Yisroel: Unraveling The Mysteries – Part II

After all milking is completed and the milk in the farm’s holding tank or silo is ready to be shipped to a dairy processing plant, which will homogenize, pasteurize and bottle the milk, or will use the milk to manufacture cholov yisroel cheese, butter, ice cream or the like, the milk is loaded into a bulk tanker truck for transport to the processing dairy. The farm mashgiach will supervise the opening of the holding tank or silo and the piping of the milk into the tanker, and he will affix new kashrus seals onto the ports of the tanker, so that no other milk can be loaded into the tanker between its departure from the farm and its arrival at the dairy processing plant. The mashgiach will also inspect the tanker to assure that it is totally clean of any prior milk residue before the cholov yisroel is to be loaded. He will verify that the tanker is either in dedicated cholov yisroel service or that it has undergone a kashering from any 24-hour straight cholov stam use.

When the tanker arrives at the dairy processing plant, that plant’s mashgiach will inspect the kashrus seals of the farm mashgiach and, assuming all checks out fine, will then authorize the unloading of the milk for cholov yisroel production. In a non-exclusive cholov yisroel dairy processing plant the mashgiach will supervise kashering of the plant’s equipment from
cholov stam status. He will typically remain present throughout the entire production, making sure that only cholov yisroel milk and cholov yisroel and pareve additives are used, and that cholov yisroel labels are sealed up after production, preventing their use in the absence of a mashgiach.

On occasion, a cow’s abomasum (keivah – fourth stomach section) can fill up with gas and reposition, creating a health hazard for the cow, which requires immediate intervention. This condition, referred to as displaced abomasum or “DA”, is caused by grain-based cattle feed.

There are various methods employed to treat DA. Some farmers merely roll the cow over (sometimes in a trough of water!), enabling the abomasum to naturally relocate. In other cases, veterinarians surgically correct DA, using less invasive to very invasive procedures, including puncturing the abomasum flush with a trocar (a sharp, hollow surgical instrument) into the bloated abomasum to relieve gas accumulation and enable the abomasum to return to its proper location.

An animal whose vital organs or limbs have been perforated or torn is rendered a treifah, and its milk is non-kosher. The poskim of the major national kashrus agencies have ruled that the regular milk supply is kosher, despite the likely presence of small amounts of milk from DA cows in the milk supply. (This p’sak is based on factors of halachic majorities and the specific parameters of treifos, which are beyond the scope of this article.) Some poskim, however, argue that milk is acceptable only when free of DA cow sources.

This stricter position is taken with regard to cholov yisroel, and all cholov yisroel farms thus maintain systems to remove DA cows from the milking herd. A significant part of the work of cholov yisroel farm mashgichim is tracking cow health and veterinary procedures, and monitoring the removal and continued segregation of DA cows from the milking herd.

The OU’s position is that cholov stam is acceptable without question. However, there are some little known halachic benefits to cholov yisroel milk and dairy products (including those under OU certification, of course):

• “Soft” cheeses, such as cottage cheese and cream cheese, are formed primarily through the use of acid cultures, which coagulate the milk’s protein and form cheese curd. These soft cheeses are referred to as acid-set cheeses. Almost all national kashrus agencies adhere to the ruling of Rav Yosef Eliyohu Henkin, z”tl (and other poskim) that acid-set cheeses are kosher so long as the ingredients and equipment used for their manufacture are kosher. Thus, these cheeses are normally supervised by yotzei v’nichnas kashrus visits. However, there is a significant amount of halachic authorities who hold that acid-set cheeses are subject to the stringencies of gevinas akum, meaning that unless the cheese is produced with a full-time on-site mashgiach, it is non-kosher/gevinas akum. (V. Chochmas Odom 53:38 and Aruch Ha-Shulchan YD 115:16.) Cholov yisroel acid-set cheeses are all made with full-time, on-site kosher supervision, thereby fulfilling this stricter approach.

• Modern cheese plants quite often have closed rennetting systems, by which the rennet enzyme used to produce “hard” (rennet-set) cheese is dosed by electronic activation into the milk vat through pipes, under the control of a computerized system, rather than being poured into the vat manually by a worker (who stands at the top opening of the vat with a container of liquid ren-net solution and decants it downward). Closed rennetting systems factor significantly into kosher cheese production, as although the halacha follows the ruling of the Remo that cheese is kosher so long as a mashgiach is present throughout to verify that the rennet being used is kosher, several major rabbinic authorities maintain that the mashgiach must physically pour the rennet into the milk in order for the resultant cheese to be kosher. (V. Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 115:2, Shach ibid. s.k. 20, Bi’ur Ha-Gro ibid. s.k. 14, Pischei Teshiva ibid. s.k. 6, Aruch Ha-Shulchan YD 115:19.) Closed rennetting systems pose a substantial challenge for those who adhere to this stricter position, as it is thereupon necessary that the mashgiach activate the electronic rennet feed for each vat of cheese that is made, in order to fulfill the requirement that a Yisroel administer the rennet for all kosher cheese production. Programming and coordinating this mashgiach-controlled electronic cheese-making system requires extra work and expertise.

It is important to note that even people who drink cholov stam and are not makpid to only drink cholov yisroel are nonetheless prohibited to eat cheese that is not gevinas yisroel. The heter of cholov stam does not permit cheese that is not gevinas yisroel. (V. Yoreh Deah 115:2, Igros Moshe YD I:47)

• As explained above, cholov yisroel farms have systems to keep DA cows out of the milking herd, thereby producing milk that meets the requirements of those poskim who take the stricter approach on the matter.

The OU certifies approximately 1200 cholov yisroel products, and the list is growing. Every OU product whose label bears the phrase “cholov yisroel” is manufactured according to the stringent protocols described in this article, thereby fulfilling the OU’s mandate to service the entire spectrum of Klal Yisroel.