We left our readers last week in mid-air, so to speak, trying to decide which airline to use, based on its safety standards. Should s/he use the government-approved airline with minimal standards (basic standards which will (probably) work (most of the time)), but perhaps too often will fail? It also uses certain parts that some aviation experts believe are actually substandard. However, it is definitely the most inexpensive airline, and because their standards are more relaxed, they are able to fly to more places more frequently, as they can have more planes and more crew available, thus making air travel more available to all. Yet there is a segment of the flying public who would not use this airline no matter which government agency approved it. Remember the Versailles Hall collapse?

Or, should s/he go with MEHADRIN AIRLINES, which has higher safety standards? The system is less likely to malfunction, and if there is indeed a breakdown, it is far less frequent. Plus, they try to use only parts that are sound according to all shitos, whoops, excuse me, all aviation experts; their standards for their pilots are higher. But, their prices are higher, too, and they don’t fly as often, nor to as many places.

Or, should s/he use MEHADRIN MIN HAMEHADRIN AIRLINES, which aims for the high end of the fear-of-flying market, has even higher standards, higher prices, and less availability—but you feel more secure.

(The SUPER MEHADRIN AIRLINE [“We do chumros you have never even heard of’!”] is defunct, a victim of not being able to convince anyone of the necessity for it.) 

My good friends: Just about any complex manufactured or mass-produced item you can think of is enormously more complicated than you realize. Food, Tefillin, a mezuzah, a mikveh—all involve hundreds of steps in a process leading up to the final product. And all along the way there are different opinions how to do things, and different end results. More expensive, less expensive; more likely to be acceptable, less likely; more likely to be durable and to consistently result in a satisfactory product, less likely; more likely to be available whenever you want it, less likely……

Do you like chicken? Let’s visit the slaughterhouse and take a peek…

1) Chickens receive various injections. If an injection is in the neck, legs, or breast, it must be ascertained that it did not become a tereifa (injured in a way that it is becomes non-kosher, even if slaughtered properly). Mehadrin shechitos send a mashgiach down to observe where the injections are made. Non-mehadrin, to my knowledge, do not.

2) How the chickens are loaded, caged and transported can sometimes render them treif. Mehadrin shechitos take steps to ensure that that does not happen.

3) Shechita knives have to be sharp and smooth for the shechita to be valid. Can they be 100 hundred percent smooth and sharp? Probably not. So at what point do you stop using one? Mehadrin has higher standards, and the mashgichim are more careful in their checking (everything is slower; there are less chickens coming down the pipeline).

4) The less frequently the knife is checked, the greater the quantity of chickens at “risk”(you thought only children were at risk?), since if the knife is not good, all those chickens slaughtered since the last valid checking are not good. What actually occurs is that the knife decreases in quality over time; the more frequently you check, the quicker a deteriorating knife gets pulled. (Mehadrin shittos check the knife after around every 20 chickens; with nonmehadrin, this can be as many as after 100 chickens.)

5) One is supposed to initially slaughter both the esophagus and windpipe for the shechita of a chicken. After the fact, even just one pipe cut is kosher. Very often, in many shechitos, just one pipe is cut. (There is no question that either way, the chicken is kosher. But there is a way that you are supposed to do it. Do you care? Should you care? It slows down the process, that’s for sure!)

6) How experienced is the whole crew? Are they fresh from shochet school, or do they have years of experience? How about the mashgichim, who are looking over for tereifos, checking the salting?

7) How many chickens get slaughtered by one shochet per minute? Twelve? That means one every five seconds. The non-mehadrin have between 15 and 20! Now, there’s not only one shochet. Non-mehadrin have many more shochtim than mehadrin; they can have five shochtim, and the system (cleaning, salting, checking for tereifos) might have to deal with 100 chickens a minute! Think about that! Let’s even say that 72 chickens are done in a minute (18 times four). Mehadrin rarely has more than 36 a minute (12 times three).

8) Skipping the gory details of if and how a chicken is examined for tereifos, do you realize what it means when statistics show that mehadrin runs find between one and two percent tereifos, and non-mehadrin find half of a percent? And we’re talking real tereifos according to all opinions.

9) Blood has to be cleaned off the chicken before it is salted. How completely is the job done? Is the chicken even opened to allow for a thorough cleaning inside? Are there parts of the chicken left inside the hollow when it is being salted?

10) Are they careful to soak it for a half-hour before the salting? Is the water perhaps too cold, which is a problem according to Rabbi Akiva Eiger? (The vets want it as cold as possible.)

11) Is there a mashgiach making sure it was cleaned well before being salted? Is there a mashgiach making sure the salt is spread all over? Check above to see how many chickens are coming down the line! Does the salt indeed stay for an hour? How is the salt washed off? Maybe the water they put it in itself gets awfully salty after a while, which is problematic? (Mehadrin will spray the chicken with water first, before this soaking.)

Is a mehadrin shechita perfect? No. Does every mehadrin shechita do everything I’ve mentioned, and perfectly? No. Do nonmehadrin shechitas do nothing?

What are the chances we have all eaten non-kosher at some point in time? If you think about it, and visit a slaughterhouse, there is no question in my mind that you will seriously consider hiring your own shochet and bodek. But the difference between mehadrin and non-mehadrin is huge (in slaughtering and koshering).