The article below is adapted from an essay in a book written by Rabbi Manuel Poliakoff, presently retired Rav who served for many decades in Baltimore. He is a student of both the Slabodka and Telshe yeshivas in Europe.
Before proceeding with Rabbi Poliakoff's essay, we might consider the following. Rabbi Y. B. Soloveitchik provided a Hashgocha for non-Glatt (explained below) regular Kosher meat and in spite of using many leniencies, had to disqualify more beasts due to lung adhesions than the neighbouring Kosher agencies that were providing Glatt Kosher meat. He said that these other agencies, "are not providing Glatt Kosher but Glatt Terief meat and they can not be trusted at all" (Rabbi H. Shechter at a public lecture HERE 47 minutes into the Shiur)
Glatt Kosher Glatt is Yiddish for "smooth." Today it is the colloquialism for "perfect - without defect". It emerges from the following background. A beast is Kosher only if it suffers no serious defects of its vital organs. Although the Halacha does not require inspection of the vital organs of an apparently healthy animal, the lungs do require inspection since they frequently have adhesions that may be the natural healing process following a perforation which renders the beast non-Kosher.
Lungs may be perfectly smooth, Glatt, without a hint of any blemish, or they may exhibit imperfections that suggest a blemish. These imperfections will be carefully examined and assessed. They may be determined to be Tereifa, or Kosher but not Glatt or if the blemish is insignificant, Glatt Kosher.
Colloquially, the term "Glatt" alludes to a stricter standard of Kosher that does not tolerate compromise. It is a standard observed by extremely scrupulous and Gd fearing Jews.
However, imposing it upon the broad community, as is the case today in most parts of the world, is contrary to the Jewish and Halachically enshrined principle of avoiding excessive strictures.
It also violates the principle that forbids imposing unnecessary expenses upon the community. Certainly pious people were keen to secure glatt kosher meat pre-WWII both in Europe and the United States, however even these individuals were not insistent upon eating exclusively glatt meat (sometimes it just was not available) and besides these were a very few individuals pursuing their own private values. No community existed where Glatt Kosher was the norm. Such considerations were not even contemplated. In our times, Israel is probably the only location where non-Glatt Kosher meat is readily available.
Glatt History The Rema, whose halachic decisions are generally followed by Ashkenazi (European) Jewry, rules that removable adhesions that leave no tear or perforation of the pleura (outer skin), are kosher. He disagrees with the Bais Yosef, Rabbi Yosef Karo, whose opinions are the standard accepted by Sefardy Jews, who rules that all adhesions to the lungs are not kosher.
Some Ashkenazi Jews adopted this ruling of Rabbi Yosef Karo as a stringency. They innovated the term “Glatt” - Yiddish or "Chalak" - Hebrew, to indicate a superior standard and non-Glatt or just 'Kosher' the traditional Kosher standard. This term, however, was totally unheard of by the Jews of Lithuania, Poland, Russia, and Western Europe.
The trend we witness today, that only Glatt Kosher is endorsed and promoted as Kosher, is a new trend. Certain Rabbis and organizations after WWII devotedly pursued this and gradually altered the mindset in the USA to accept Glatt as the only acceptable form of Kosher.
This is a crime in the eyes of Halacha. True, serious Kashrus problems plagued the United States. The Shochatim (ritual slaughterers) and their unions attempted to control not only labour problems but also dictate Kashrus standards as well and it was critical that the Rabbonim correct this, however, imposing Glatt Kosher as a solution was wrong.
When these Jews arrived on the shores of the United States, they influenced substantial numbers to follow their unnecessary and improper stringencies and this provided opportunity for some to exploit the situation and hold the Kosher market to ransom. While I am certain many of these extremists were sincere, I am also convinced many shrewd individuals used the pretext of excessive piety to fleece the unsuspecting public. Today, the unsuspecting public is either totally unaware of this ‘behind the scenes’ manipulation or believes non-Glatt meat is not Kosher. This has paralysed the market by preventing sales of non-Glatt Kosher meat which is perceived as being not Kosher. It has also caused substantial increases in the price of kosher meat.
The additional costs for Kosher meat are shrouded in mystery. Some of the reason given include: Greater costs for: Highly trained professional Shochetim (Ritual Slaughtermen) and Bodkim (those trained to search for blemishes that will disqualify the meat from Kosher) and Menakrim (those trained to remove certain forbidden components) as well as A supervising rabbi or rabbis on site (mashgiach) and The Kosher agency that provides its seal and ultimately guarantees the Kosher integrity of the final product.
Greater inefficiencies for: Slower production although the same number of meatworkers are employed, Higher ratios of non-Kosher and non-glatt due to escalating Kosher standards Reduced value of the hide due to Kosher slaughter.
The sale of the non-Kosher or non-Glatt meat to the non-Kosher market always disadvantages the seller – we are forced to sell and the buyers need not purchase. It is a fire sale and the least profitable manner of running a business.
When the percentage of non-Kosher is small the costs of covering for the fire sale is minimal and tolerably absorbed in the small additional cost for kosher meat.
[Rabbi Y. B. Soloveitchik provided a Hashgocha for non-Glatt regular Kosher meat and in spite of using every leniency, found that he had more beasts rejected because of lung adhesions than the Kosher agencies that were providing Glatt Kosher meat. He said that these other agencies are not selling Glatt Kosher but Glatt Terief meat and they can not be trusted at all. (Rabbi H. Shechter at a public lecture, 47 minutes from the start of the Shiur. Click on this link to hear the Shiur)]
However, implementing glatt kosher standards, in which only 20-25% is acceptable as Kosher creates an unreasonable burden to be borne by the Kosher consumers and is reflected in outrageously higher prices for kosher meat. My father, the chief Shochet at Esskay Meat Packing, Inc., one of the largest and most prestigious kosher packing houses on the east coast, told me that in his experience, the highest percentage of truly glatt was 17%.
The promoters of glatt though, claim that today the percentage of kosher animals is 60%. However, after investigation, I learned that the definitions of glatt have been broadened. This means that really small adhesions are ignored and the meat will still be identified as Glatt. To differentiate this Glatt from “no-adhesions-at-all Glatt”, a new term has been coined “Glatt Bais Yosef” meaning Glatt for the Sepharadim.
I strongly disagree with this superficial innovation. There are no absolute guidelines for what is a really small adhesion and implementing such imprecise, relative standards makes a mockery of our Halacha.
From a more global perspective, there is an expanding danger that is eroding the substance of our "Fear of Heaven"; our commitment seems to have been derailed from being loyal to HKBH and hijacked to notions of being loyal to what is popular and superficially pious. Although the Talmud warns of this, (Rasha Arum) it hardly seems possible that our Sages foresaw the extent of the matter as it has developed today and the threat that it possibly wields over our destiny.
The following is adapted from comments made by Dr. Marc B. Shapiro who is the Weinberg Chair in Judaic Studies at the University of Scranton and the author of various books on Jewish history, philosophy, and theology.
Rav Henkin, who alongside R. Moshe Feinstein was the leading Halachic authority in the U.S. in the 1950's and 1960's, reflected wistfully that the primary basis justifying the existence of Kashrus organizations is the sole opinion of the RaShBA . What did he mean by this? The RaShBA holds that a non-Jew who in the normal process of manufacturing a food product, adds even the tiniest amount of a non-kosher, the end product is not Kosher.
We would expect, and the very great majority of Rishonim, nay all of the Rishonim except for the RaShBA, maintain that because of its tiny proportion the finished food should be Kosher. Indeed if a Jew would inadvertently add that same proportion of non-Kosher, the end product would be Kosher. However, if this is knowingly added by a non-Jew as part of the production the product is not Kosher. This view is quoted in the Beit Yosef YD end 134.
This opinion is mentioned by the Beis Yosef as is his style, to document the range of opinions but not as a matter of Halacha. The Halachah is not in accordance with this RaShBA. Tiny proportions of non-Kosher foods will not disqualify the final product unless they are knowingly added by a Jew. And even then, the food is Kosher but a penalty prohibits the food to those who made it and to those for whom it was made. In fact all other Jews may eat it.
The Noda BiYehudah compiled a famous Teshuvah [Mahadura Tinyana, Yoreh Deah no. 56] permitting a drink manufactured with miniscule proportions of Tereif meat. The Rama [Teshuvos] also permits a similar case.
Most even learned people when hearing the circumstances described are positive that no truly Orthodox rabbi could permit such a food as Kosher.
Thus we have unravelled the mindset that lies behind Rav Henkin’s pensive comment. He may well have been concerned for the Kosher consumers being taken for a ride and never knowing it or possibly troubled by the nature of the rabbinate that thoughtlessly or mischievously set such a needless device into motion oblivious to the divisiveness and exclusivity that it would cause.
Kashrus organizations tell us that we must have Hashgachah for Kashrus because cleaning in factories between various productions is not adequate. Occasionally non-kosher or milk and/or meat residues remain. This may contaminate the next production which contains only Kosher ingredients.
Well, and what if it does, what is the problem? Even the RaShBA does not prohibit such cases. The RaShBA is concerned only where these ingredients are deliberately added as part of the production. See Rabbi Moshe Fienstien's Teshuvah that Kashering is not required to produce Kosher margarine in a non-Kosher factory.
But even in those situations where the RaShBA may consider the food to be non-Kosher, we do not Pasken the Halacha according to this lone opinion. All the other Poskim disagree with the RaShBA.
Nevertheless, the Kashrus agencies have raised the bar and are now imposing stringencies, Chumros, that are beyond the pale of the norms of regular Halacha. Now, if this was an option available to those who wished to accept such stringencies and those who were not so inclined could opt for the less stringent standards of Kosher, that would be dignified and tolerable. But the average Kosher consumer is basically unaware and has not the patience to listen to these discussions. They just want to do the right thing and they do not wish to feel they are cutting corners. They do not wish to make compromises and Bittul has been made to sound like a dirty word.
Our ordinary Kosher consumer is a well meaning but harried individual who has been misled about the Halcha and imbued with the false and unsettling sensation that Bittul is a compromised second class sham and not a reflection of their true pursuit of Gdly and spiritual nobility. It is a shame that this misunderstanding has probably caused more people to perceive Kosher as a an extreme and difficult objective to comfortably embrace.