| Kashrus Alert: A Mashgiach's Travels |

Don’t Feed the Animals 

A new law about animal feed came to the rescue, and enabled us to feed the livestock this food

Here’s a riddle: What could be the halachic problem with giving animals animal food? And how can it be avoided?

You know about the issur of basar b’chalav, mixing meat and milk. But you may not know that if the milk and meat were merely mixed together, they would only be assur b’achilah, forbidden to eat;  if they were cooked together, they would also be assur b’hanaah — it would be forbidden to gain any benefit from such a mixture.

Are you wondering what benefit you could get from a mixture of meat and milk, if you aren’t eating it? Well, you could sell it to a goy and make money, or… feed it to your animals. Those are ways you could get hanaah, benefit, from a forbidden mixture. But here’s another interesting, lesser-known fact: if the meat comes from an animal that isn’t kosher, it remains only assur b’achilah, even if it’s cooked together. Only milk cooked together with kosher animal meat becomes assur b’hanaah.

Once, I discovered a very big problem with animal feed. It contained whey protein (which comes from milk), and it also contained animal fats (which, obviously, come from animals. Yes, the animal feed given to livestock contains animal fats from other animals). Both ingredients were cooked together. And, as you now know, that meant that it would be assur for Yidden to feed this to their animals! It would be an issur d’Oraisa of basar b’chalav, chas v’shalom!

But one small fact saved the day: A new law about animal feed came to the rescue, and enabled us to feed the livestock this food. What was the new law, and how did it help us? Here’s the story.

Did you know that animals can get sick? Yes, they can, and just like people, sick animals can be contagious and make other animals sick, too. One of the diseases that can affect animals like goats, cows, and sheep is called foot-and-mouth disease (FMD for short). It is also known as hoof-and-mouth disease. (You or your younger siblings might have had hand, foot and mouth disease, known as HFMD – but it is not the same sickness that animals get. Animals don’t get the people kind of HFMD viruses and people don’t get the animal kind of FMD viruses!)

Because FMD is so contagious and can make many animals ill, the people raising and caring for animals really, really don’t want their livestock to be infected. Every now and then there is an outbreak of FMD in a farm or in a country, and then strict rules are enforced, like quarantine (sound familiar?), and stopping export (shipping the animals or their meat to different countries).

Once, during a bad outbreak of FMD in England, the people in charge of feeding livestock decided there would be a new law. The new law decreed that because ruminating animals (animals that chew their cud) are the animals most likely to get FMD (cats and dogs don’t get it), animal feed could only use animal derivatives from non-ruminating animals. In other words, any animal that chewed its cud could not be used in animal feed. I’m sure I don’t have to mention that in order to be kosher, animals must chew their cud and have split hooves. And there on the giant sacks of animal feed, in small letters, it said: Animal fats from non-ruminating animals only.

An outbreak of FMD, a new law, and halachic knowledge all came together to enable us to feed the livestock their feed, even though it had meat and milk cooked together!


Fun Fact

Some vitamins and over-the-counter allergy meds have this same issue of the issur d’Oraisa of basar b’chalav being cooked together. When the casings are made from cheese derivatives, and the pills contain glycerin, gelatin, or other animal derivatives, it can be a serious problem. You’ll want to be sure your vitamins come with a good hashgachah!


If you have a pet and buy animal food, make sure it has a hashgachah, or at the very least make sure it’s not assur b’hanaah, before feeding your animal. (Animal fats and animal proteins can both be used in animal food.)


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 880)

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