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Shabbat Parashat Vaeira 5770

Ask the Rabbi: Kashrut of an Animal Fed Meat and Milk

Question: I have heard that veal comes from calves that are fed a mixture of milk and meat. Shouldn’t that make it forbidden, as an animal whose sustenance comes from non-kosher food (see Rama, Yoreh Deah 60:1)? This case is particularly severe, because the feed is assur b’hana’ah (forbidden in benefit)!
Answer: We will start with your assumption that the feed is fully forbidden as basar b’chalav, the combination of milk and meat. The halachic ramifications are very complicated, and we will but summarize them.
Generally, when a forbidden food undergoes a major change so that it reappears in a totally different form, the new food is permitted. Thus, for one of many examples, a bird born from the egg of a bird that is a tereifa (blemished in a manner that makes it not kosher) is permitted (Temura 31a). Nevertheless, we must contend with the following source. The mishna brings an opinion that if a kosher animal drank the non-kosher animal’s milk, it should not be used for a korban. The gemara (ibid.) says that it refers to a case where it drank milk in a manner that would sustain it all day. Tosafot surmises that similarly if an animal was sustained consistently on grains of avoda zara, it would be forbidden, apparently even for regular eating (not only as a korban).
Despite an apparent abundance of sources permitting such a case (see Pri Chadash, Yoreh Deah 60:5; Igrot Moshe, YD I, 147), the Rama (YD 60:1) rules like Tosafot’s stringency regarding animals that have consistently been fed non-kosher feed. The Shach (ad loc.:5) and others argue on two major grounds. First, Tosafot was explaining an opinion that is not even accepted as halacha. Secondly, Tosafot’s suggestion is regarding feed of avoda zara, which is assur b’hana’ah (forbidden in benefit), whereas the Rama forbade it even due to simple eating prohibition.
The second point suggests a distinction whereby more opinions can accept the stringency regarding issurei hana’ah. This raised a lot of discussion regarding milk on Pesach from animals that were fed chametz on Pesach. We can address this matter only superficially in this forum. A major principle indicating leniency is the acceptance of the opinion (Avoda Zara 49a) that zeh v’zeh goreim, mutar (=zvzgm), In other words, when something is the product of two or more physical factors, some of which are permitted and some forbidden, the resulting object is permitted. Here, the milk is a result of the chametz but also other feed and/or the animal’s body, and thus it should be permitted. One question, though, is whether the major dependency on chametz, especially over time, makes the animal and its milk some type of continuation of the chametz (along the lines of the Rama). There is also an issue that regarding chametz, where the rules of bitul (nullification) do not apply, zvzgm might not either (see Magen Avraham 445:5). Oversimplifying the matter, the Mishna Berura (448:33) is equivocal and Rav Moshe Feinstein ruled leniently (Igrot Moshe, ibid.).
Important to us in Rav Feinstein’s thesis is that he rejects not only the Rama but also the Shach’s distinction. He says that the use of a by-product of an issur hana’ah that is now gone (i.e., the animal feed) is far too indirect to be considered benefiting from the original item. The prohibition could only be based on seeing the milk as an extension of the original object, which is a fringe opinion we do not accept.
Instead of citing all the various opinions and applying them to the similar but slightly more lenient case of basar b’chalav, we will obviate the issue by sharing our assumption, corroborated by an OU web page. Even regarding the calf feed that is a mixture of milk and meat (not all are), the milk and meat are not cooked together. That feed thus is forbidden only rabbinically and it is permitted to benefit from (Shulchan Aruch, YD 87:1). It is hard to imagine that even according to the Rama, a rabbinic prohibition (whose nature is procedural to require a person to refrain from eating, rather than saying the object is intrinsically forbidden- see Chelkat Yoav II, 20) would extend on to a transformed by-product.
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