Cholov Yisroel: Unraveling The Mysteries – Part I

7

got-milkBy Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer, RC Dairy., OU Kosher

“There is no purpose in drinking cholov yisroel today, as the government inspects the dairies and makes sure that all the milk is kosher.” “Isn’t all milk with a hechsher considered cholov yisroel?”

The topic of cholov yisroel is fraught with confusion and misunderstanding.
Let’s try to clarify and demystify things.

The halacha Chazal decreed that milk is only permitted when the actual milking was supervised by an on-site Yisroel, serving as the mashgiach. (Avodah Zarah 35b, Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 115:1) This gezeirah is due to the concern that milk from non-kosher animal species may be mixed into the otherwise kosher milk. In modern times, many people and communities follow the ruling of R. Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe YD 1:47-49) that since the government inspects dairies and makes sure that milk from non-kosher species is not present in the milk supply, our knowledge of this fact is the halachic equivalent of a mashgiach witnessing it (based on the halachic axiom of anan sahadei – that firm knowledge of something is equal to witnessing it). According to R. Moshe, all milk in countries with adequate dairy regulations benefits from “virtual supervision”, as Klal Yisroel’s knowledge that the milk is under tight government control which keeps out milk from non-kosher species is halachically equal to us witnessing the milking and handling of the milk; all domestic commercial milk therefore satisfies the halachic requirement that a Yisroel supervise it. Such milk is commonly referred to as cholov stam.

However, not all poskim concur with R. Moshe’s approach. Some poskim rule that the presence of a live, on-site Yisroel as the mashgiach is indispensable, and that milk which lacks this supervision is non-kosher (cholov akum). My recent article in Mesorah, oukosher.org/content/uploads/2012/12/Mesorah_27.pdf, presents differing opinions among Rishonim about the kashrus of milk that is supervised in the absence of a live, on-site mashgiach. Those opinions in the article that rule strictly assumedly would not permit cholov stam.

Regular OU-D milk is cholov stam, as it is not supervised in accordance with cholov yisroel regulations. Standard OU-certified milk processing plants are visited by OU supervisors on a spot-check basis to assure that all ingredients (such as vitamins, flavors and any incoming bulk liquids) are kosher and that the equipment is kosher.

How is cholov yisroel supervision conducted?

In order to understand what cholov yisroel supervision entails, we need to first briefly discuss cholov yisroel farms. There are two types of cholov yisroel farms, each with its own protocol:

Part-time cholov yisroel farms:

These are farms that do not normally have onsite supervision for cholov yisroel; their regular milk is cholov stam. However, every so often, a cholov yisroel production is scheduled. This involves a team of mashgichim coming to the farm for a special production of cholov yisroel over the course of a day to many weeks straight. The mashgichim kasher all equipment that had
hot contact with cholov stam, as well as all milk holding tanks and silos that held cholov stam for 24 hours or more straight (the axiom of kovush), and the mashgichim remain at the farm for the duration of the cholov yisroel production.

Full-time cholov yisroel farms:

These farms are cholov yisroel year-round. Mashgichim live at these farms, or within a few blocks of them, as supervision is needed 24/7/365, with a mashgiach present for every single milking throughout the year. Any hot-use equipment and milk holding tanks and silos on these farms was kashered prior to starting cholov yisroel service, and the equipment retains cholov yisroel status thereafter.

It must be noted that cholov yisroel mashgichim, as well as almost all other mashgichim who work at facilities that require 24/7/365 kosher supervision, live with unimaginable mesiras nefesh. Most cholov yisroel farms and hashgocho temidis food plants are located in extremely far-flung areas, remote from Jewish communities and often from “civilization” in general. These mashgichim sacrifice the most basic of needs and comforts, as they live and work in isolation in order to provide their brethren with superior kosher food l’mehadrin.

What exactly do cholov yisroel mashgichim supervise?

The short answer is that the mashgichim supervise every milking session in order to verify that only cows are used (or goat or sheep, in the case of goat and sheep farms). The mashgichim also assure that no unsupervised milk is brought in and incorporated into the farm’s cholov yisroel milk. Although this may sound straightforward, there are many critical details, all of which are addressed in the primary halachic sources.

Halacha requires the mashgiach to be present for techilas ha-chalivah, the commencement of the milking session, in order to examine the milking equipment and assure that it contains no residue of other milk. The mashgiach must then be pres-ent at least on a yotzei v’nichnas (spot-checking) basis during each milking session. (Remo in Yoreh Deah ibid., Shach s.k. 4) The mashgiach also has to be present for the completion of each milking session (sof ha-chalivah), in order to affix his spe –
cial kashrus seals to the holding tank or silo where all of the milk just collected is stored, thereby assuring that no unsupervised milk is incorporated into the cholov yisroel.

Rav Chaim Yisroel Belsky told me that Rav Shimon Schwab established the cholov yisroel supervision at farms that provided milk for cheeses under the hashgocho of K’hal Adath Jeshurun (KAJ – “Breuer’s”) as follows: a) The mashgiach would be present at techilas ha-chalivah; b) the mashgiach would make at least one unannounced visit in the middle of each chalivah; c) the mashgiach would be present for sof ha-chalivah. This fulfills the halachic mandate for cholov yisroel supervision without question.

The truth is that since cholov yisroel farms are almost always located so remotely far from Jewish communities and from other places of interest, once the mashgiach is at the farm, it is not really possible to go elsewhere, even if the farm is a part-time cholov yisroel facility and the mashgiach does not live there year-round. Thus, the mashgiach is normally present anyway for the entire chalivah. Furthermore, it is clear as day to anyone who visits a commercial dairy farm that the only animals on-site are cows (or sheep/goat), and the Halacha is that if a farm has no non-kosher animals, the mashgiach need not witness the actual milking, as even if he is stationed outside of the milking parlor (the room where milking occurs) and verifies that no non-kosher animals enter, the milk is kosher/cholov yisroel. (Avodah Zarah 39b, Shulchan Aruch ibid.) Nonetheless, common protocol of the kashrus agencies which certify cholov yisroel is for the mashgiach to physically be present in the milking parlor for chalivah.

OU KOSHER

{Matzav.com Newscenter}

7 COMMENTS

  1. THE FACT IS MOST TIMES THE CHOLOV YISROEL FARMS ARE A GROUP OF FARMS [NOT ONE FARM], AND THE ONE AND ONLY [?] MASHGIACH, CAN NOT BE AT TCHILAS HACHLIVA AND IN THE MIDDLE AND IN THE END AS DEMANDED BY RABBI SCHWAB ZATZ”,L SO WHAT TO DO? N
    AND THS IS A PROBLEM WITH THE HEMISHE CREAM CHEES AND MORE.
    ALSO TODAY THAT THERE IS A PROBLEM WITH COWS HAVING OPERATIONS, HOW CAN ONE EVEN THINK OF EATING CHOLOV STAM?

  2. Thanks for an informative article. I’ve heard of this issue that #1 mentions of cows getting operations and that many choshuve rabbonim are machmir and many choshuve rabbonim are meikil. Can we perhaps have a follow up article explain the two sides in detail?

  3. In regards to our recent conversation regarding Chalav Stam I have copied the an e-mail correspondence which I’ve had with the OU. Please refer to it below.

    As I mentioned during our conversation, I did not continue the correspondence because I felt that I wouldn’t accomplish anything constructive. However, by no means do I agree with the conclusions reached. Although I disagree for many reasons I will only cite one as an example. (You are free to research the issue more extensively to see which position seems more agreeable to you. Searching Displaced Abomasums on Google might be a good place to start.)

    Rabbi Gersten wrote, “But as I explained the incidence of DA from more than one year ago are not halachically significant.”

    Not that simple, we rely on the cow living an additional year only when in doubt (safek) if the cow became a treifa. However, where we know for a fact that an animal has become a treifa nothing can reverse that status. Which brings the entire lifespan of the cow into the equation. Therefore we are faced with something closer to 22% being treifa, a percentage to high for comfort by all accounts.

    YDB

    From: YDB
    Sent: Friday, Fe
    To: ‘Gersten, Eli’
    Subject: RE: Question from BP kasrus meeting

    I understand, thank you and have a good Shabbos.

    Mishnechnas Adar Marbin B’Simcha!

    YDB

    From: Gersten, Eli [mailto:gerstene@ou.org]
    Sent: Thursday, Feb
    To: ‘YDB’
    Subject: RE: Question from BP kasrus meeting

    I checked back through my notes and I realize I misquoted slightly this is what my notes have from a recent study:

    The findings were that there are no consistencies. In some states the incidence of DA per year was 1% and in other states it was as high as 7%. Two farms only a few miles apart, one had 1% incidence and the other 4%. In some states they favor rolling the cows, and in other states they favor stitching without making a hole, some veterinarians favor stitching through the keiva and others puncture and some farmers will just slaughter or sell the cow. Some said the large farmers will slaughter and others said that small farmers are more likely to slaughter DA cows.

    Your number 22% makes sense because they are probably not talking about per year but in total. Since a cow has about a 3-4 year milking lifespan. But as I explained the incidence of DA from more than one year ago are not halachically significant. In fact if a cow becomes pregnant and gives birth, this is also a siman that the cow is not a treifa.

    So considering that a particular farm can have a wide range of possible numbers it is still a safek d’rabbanan.

    Rabbi Eli Gersten
    Rabbinic Coordinator
    212-613-8222-phone 212-613-0742-fax
    Gerstene@ou.org

    From: YDB
    Sent: Thursday, F
    To: Gersten, Eli
    Subject: RE: Question from BP kasrus meeting

    Rabbi Gersten,

    Thank you for responding to my question.

    I would like to start by clarifying that my original question (although I couldn’t write it during the asifa) came from learning a piece in Chullin Illuminated by Rabbi Yaakov Dovid Lach. After a lengthy discussion on the gemora of “היכא דפרעי טבחי” in Maschtes Chullin 50: Rabbi Lach writes;

    “It is interesting to note that the recent “milk shailah” is essentially a modern version of this age old issue. In our times, too, bovine are often susceptible to bloat due to an excessive intake of food; the only difference is that today it typically occurs in the fourth stomach- the קיבה, abomasums. This is a change for the worse, for a puncture in the abomasums is undoubtedly treifah and this prevents the use of the lenient arguments cited above. Nevertheless, there are several mitigating factors. First, many times the excessive gas can be relieved by the palpation and the massage of the abomasums, without piercing it. Furthermore, even when it is necessary to pierce the abomasums, it may be argued that the method which is used today does not render the animal treifah. This is because the hollow needle that is used to let the excess gas escape is extremely thin, and is generally inserted so that the various layers of membrane and muscle that make up the walls of the abomasums are not pierced at the same location….”

    So essentially my question is that this may be a Shailah which wasn’t quite necessarily known to R’ Moshe and other previous Poskim, (Displaced Abomasums as opposed to gas in the rumen). I do remember that during the “milk shailah” in the summer of ’94 (I think) people didn’t drink milk for a few days until some kind of control/Hashgacha was established over which cows could be used. Presumably that same method wasn’t applied to cows nationally. So my question is, is it necessary to have that Hashgacha on the cows or is it just a chumrah?

    Additionally you wrote” The most recent findings is that the occurrences of Displaced Abumasum (DA) usually ranges in the U.S. from 1-4% a year depending on how the cows are raised. One farm can be 4% and the neighboring farm 1% depending on how they are fed…” However, when I googled “Displaced Abomasums” (to make sure that we were both talking about the same thing) I came across many studies claiming that DA incidence could be as high as 22% in the US. Virtually all studies conclude that rolling and blind tacking, suturing, are cheaper methods but not as effective in the long run due to a high relapse rate (over 50%), and longer recovery times (to optimal production) and overall prefer surgical rectification. I’m not questioning the OU’s numbers I just want to understand is this an issue or not? This is not so much a question of Chalav Yisroel versus Chalev Stam (which has been addressed extensively by the Poskim) rather, whether we have a new issue which our poskim of the past didn’t have.

    I would like to close by stating that I appreciate that OU takes the time and effort to answer questions sent to them, and that I’m by no means trying to be offensive rather, I’m just trying to understand this matter which effects all of us.

    Thank you again,

    YDB

    From: Gersten, Eli
    Sent: Tuesday, February 01, 2011 5:08 PM
    To: ‘YDB
    Cc:
    Subject: Question from BP kasrus meeting

    Chalav stam regarding recent information of treifos in cows?

    The most recent findings is that the occurrences of Displaced Abumasum (DA) usually ranges in the U.S. from 1-4% a year depending on how the cows are raised. One farm can be 4% and the neighboring farm 1% depending on how they are fed… There are several ways of dealing with this issue. Some veterinarians will roll the cows (no issue) some will sow the stomachs back into place without needing to make any incisions (no problem) some farmers will just slaughter the cows (no problem) and some veterinarians pierce the stomach. There is no way to tell by viewing the cow whether the stomach was pierced, and it is at most a safek treifa. There is no need to be concerned for any treifos more than 12 months old since treifos in general don’t live twelve months. And a cow that lives twelve months is therefore deemed to be a non-treifa See Shach Y.D. 81:5 (See Shulchan Aruch there as well).
    Most milk is certainly kosher. Treif milk is certainly batel chad btrei in the kosher milk and is mutar d’oraisah. There is only a question on the level of d’rabbanan. Since it is possible that the amount of problematic milk is less than 1.6% (batel b’shishim) it is mutar (safek d’rabbanan l’kula).
    There are other approaches that deal with chezkas kashrus etc…

    Rabbi Eli Gersten
    Rabbinic Coordinator
    212-613-8222-phone 212-613-0742-fax
    Gerstene@ou.org

  4. Rabbi Gersten,

    Thank you for responding to my question.

    I would like to start by clarifying that my original question (although I couldn’t write it during the asifa) came from learning a piece in Chullin Illuminated by Rabbi Yaakov Dovid Lach. After a lengthy discussion on the gemora of “היכא דפרעי טבחי” in Maschtes Chullin 50: Rabbi Lach writes;

    “It is interesting to note that the recent “milk shailah” is essentially a modern version of this age old issue. In our times, too, bovine are often susceptible to bloat due to an excessive intake of food; the only difference is that today it typically occurs in the fourth stomach- the קיבה, abomasums. This is a change for the worse, for a puncture in the abomasums is undoubtedly treifah and this prevents the use of the lenient arguments cited above. Nevertheless, there are several mitigating factors. First, many times the excessive gas can be relieved by the palpation and the massage of the abomasums, without piercing it. Furthermore, even when it is necessary to pierce the abomasums, it may be argued that the method which is used today does not render the animal treifah. This is because the hollow needle that is used to let the excess gas escape is extremely thin, and is generally inserted so that the various layers of membrane and muscle that make up the walls of the abomasums are not pierced at the same location….”

    So essentially my question is that this may be a Shailah which wasn’t quite necessarily known to R’ Moshe and other previous Poskim, (Displaced Abomasums as opposed to gas in the rumen). I do remember that during the “milk shailah” in the summer of ’94 (I think) people didn’t drink milk for a few days until some kind of control/Hashgacha was established over which cows could be used. Presumably that same method wasn’t applied to cows nationally. So my question is, is it necessary to have that Hashgacha on the cows or is it just a chumrah?

    Additionally you wrote” The most recent findings is that the occurrences of Displaced Abumasum (DA) usually ranges in the U.S. from 1-4% a year depending on how the cows are raised. One farm can be 4% and the neighboring farm 1% depending on how they are fed…” However, when I googled “Displaced Abomasums” (to make sure that we were both talking about the same thing) I came across many studies claiming that DA incidence could be as high as 22% in the US. Virtually all studies conclude that rolling and blind tacking, suturing, are cheaper methods but not as effective in the long run due to a high relapse rate (over 50%), and longer recovery times (to optimal production) and overall prefer surgical rectification. I’m not questioning the OU’s numbers I just want to understand is this an issue or not? This is not so much a question of Chalav Yisroel versus Chalev Stam (which has been addressed extensively by the Poskim) rather, whether we have a new issue which our poskim of the past didn’t have.

    I would like to close by stating that I appreciate that OU takes the time and effort to answer questions sent to them, and that I’m by no means trying to be offensive rather, I’m just trying to understand this matter which effects all of us.

  5. I checked back through my notes and I realize I misquoted slightly this is what my notes have from a recent study:

    The findings were that there are no consistencies. In some states the incidence of DA per year was 1% and in other states it was as high as 7%. Two farms only a few miles apart, one had 1% incidence and the other 4%. In some states they favor rolling the cows, and in other states they favor stitching without making a hole, some veterinarians favor stitching through the keiva and others puncture and some farmers will just slaughter or sell the cow. Some said the large farmers will slaughter and others said that small farmers are more likely to slaughter DA cows.

    Your number 22% makes sense because they are probably not talking about per year but in total. Since a cow has about a 3-4 year milking lifespan. But as I explained the incidence of DA from more than one year ago are not halachically significant. In fact if a cow becomes pregnant and gives birth, this is also a siman that the cow is not a treifa.

    So considering that a particular farm can have a wide range of possible numbers it is still a safek d’rabbanan.

    Rabbi Eli Gersten

  6. So bottom line, will I get an onesh if I continue to consume Chalav Akum? Must I give up on my Good Humor ice cream bars? What about my Entemmanns?

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