Here we explain some similarities and differences between Organic certification and Kosher certification. It is not intended to be comprehensive nor highly technical – but salient points will be addressed.
ORGANIC CERTIFICATION VS KOSHER CERTIFICATION – VALUES AND BELIEFS
Both Organic certification and Kosher certification are based on values and beliefs that inform and create standards. The function of the Kosher certification or Organic certification agency is to insure strict compliance with these standards. Both Organic certification agencies and kosher certification agencies are staffed by individuals who are deeply committed to their respective values, beliefs and standards.
Organic certification is fundamentally concerned with the contamination of foods due to exposure to either chemicals or GMO’s in one form or another. This concern is rooted in the belief that these exposures are harmful to human health, the planet, and its eco-systems (I agree by the way).
Kosher certification, in the traditional sense of the term, is fundamentally concerned with foods conforming to the Biblical and Rabbinic tradition of Kosher dietary laws and any contamination or trespass that would compromise these laws – and hence integrity of the Kosher certified product. The reasons offered by the rabbinic tradition for the basis of these laws vary from physical to spiritual health, discipline, ethical sensitivity, concerns with idolatry or intermarriage – to “we have no idea but it’s a Divine Commandment” or Rabbinic Law.
ORGANIC CERTIFICATION VS KOSHER CERTIFICATION – EQUIPMENT USED
In Organic certification there is a concern of equipment being used for non-organic foods, if this equipment is also used for organic certified products. Likewise, with Kosher certification, these concerns of Kosher certified products being processed on equipment, or even within the same facility, as truly non-Kosher products typically apply.
ORGANIC VS KOSHER – GOVERNMENTAL REGULATIONS & OTHER STANDARDS
One very significant difference between Organic certification and Kosher certification is that Organic certification is ultimately answerable to the USDA, and hence the Federal government, and that there are uniform standards developed by and enforced by Uncle Sam. Even if there are disagreements as to what should be the standard, in the end it’s hammered out into the final law.
Kosher certification, on the other hand, is answerable only to the rabbi of the Kosher certification agency, his industry peers and the Kosher consumer. Consequently there are different standards and, not surprisingly, there are some disagreements on various issues as to what is a proper Kosher standard or procedure. This heterodoxy of views should not be overstated, as Kosher certification is largely run by the Orthodox rabbinate and there is a significant amount of consensus. I would estimate consensus on perhaps 80% of the issues, but the other 20% leaves you enough room to sometimes get caught up in such a disagreement. So while there are disagreements about Gelatin, Carmine, Dairy, Cheese, Bread, Oil and Wine production… There are no disagreements about Pigs, Shellfish, Meat and Milk etc…
As a consumer of organic products, in the end there is not much you can do about the certification process or standards, since as a simple citizen generally one goes along to get along.
With Kosher though, you can always refuse to eat a product if it’s not certified by “your rabbi”. While generally these zero sum game Kosher consumers are a minority of a minority of a minority they do have telephones (not Internet God forbid!) and you may hear from them about why their Rabbi (who may not even speak English as a first language) is not certifying your product as Kosher and no other agency is good or kosher enough! You might try to explain to them that most Kosher consumers have never hear of your rabbi and many Kosher consumers are Goyim (Gentiles) and you prefer to work with people that you have a synergy of values or are more accessible etc… but good luck.
EarthKosher focuses on kosher certification, not wishing to entangle itself with our beloved government more than is absolutely necessary (i.e. paying taxes). It’s not that we are Libertarians or Tea Party activists – although this country seriously needs to get its act together – its just that one higher power, i.e. God, is enough for us to deal with at present time, and as you know Judaism has a lot of rules of its own.
ORGANIC CERTIFICATION VS KOSHER CERTIFICATION – DOCUMENTATION ISSUES
Organic certification will often be concerned with a complete documentation from A-Z of the purity of the Organic product. They will want to know the chain from farm to truck to manufacturer to packer etc.
While this can be true as well of Kosher certification this is not always the case. For example a Kosher certifier will not be concerned with where or how your apples, nuts, tea or coffee are grown, whether its Organic certified or not.
He will, however, be very much concerned with how it is processed. How are these ingredients dried, roasted are they flavored? What else is this drying equipment used for, if anything?
ORGANIC CERTIFICATION VS KOSHER CERTIFICATION – INSPECTION ISSUES
Often Organic certification entails an annual inspection.
With Kosher certification, however, this is sometimes the case when dealing with ultra-simple products and processes, but more often the Kosher certifier visits on a quarterly or monthly basis. In some situations an even more intensive inspection regimen is required.
Organic certification agencies often schedule their inspections – whereas with Kosher certification agencies, in general, after the initial set up these inspections are unannounced.
ORGANIC CERTIFICATION VS KOSHER CERTIFICATION – COST & PRICING ISSUES
Organic certification can also have a different costing model than Kosher certification. Very often I hear of Organic certification agencies charging based on a percent of sales.
This is a clear advantage for small companies (less so for large ones) and this is made possible by an annual inspection being the norm. If you only have to inspect one time a year, and you have someone local to do the inspection, then it is easy to charge smaller companies based on a percent of sales and cover your costs.
In contrast to this model, reputable Kosher certification agencies look askance on charging based on sales revenue for a variety of reasons.
First, this sales-revenue pricing model is in some sense making the Kosher certifier a partner with the company under Kosher certification, and the objectivity of the Kosher certifier can be potentially compromised or called into question.
It also can have a distinctly hyper-capitalistic perception which sincere rabbis are interested in avoiding. Not that they are socialists or communists but they just do not feel the rabbinate and Kosher certification should be identified with this kind of opportunistic approach. What is the percent of sales they would receive for Pepsi, Ben and Jerry’s or Dunkin Donuts etc…and how would this be perceived?
Second, the relatively high level of inspections Kosher certification typically requires, or the remoteness of the production facility and the costs involved in getting someone competent there, usually makes this unfeasible for the Kosher certifier.
And finally, the idea of charging a company for Kosher certification based on sales revenue requires that the rabbi have access to this highly confidential information, and places him in a position to have to authenticate this information. This is not the relationship that is typically helpful between a Kosher certifier and the company they are working with.
ORGANIC VS KOSHER – MARKETS, SALES, AND PSYCHOLOGY
Both Organic certification and Kosher certification deliver real markets and create real sales. However there are some important distinctions.
There are Kosher stores that only take Kosher certified products – this is not the case for Organic products.
It is very well known that if you have distribution on the East Coast for your Kosher product, Kosher certification is a no-brainer, it is an absolute must.
This is not the case for Organic certification. People who are health conscious in general prefer to buy a product if its Organic certified – but they will sometimes buy a product even if it’s not certified – if it looks really good. After all, its “Fair-Trade certified” or “We live in an imperfect world” – or “it has many Organic ingredients anyway”, the reasoning goes in a pinch.
This is not the case with Kosher products. Kosher consumers will simply not buy a product that is not Kosher certified, provided they sense that this is a product that truly requires Kosher certification, which many do.
While Organic certification is fairly clear what its stands for – i.e. no Chemicals etc. – for some reason there are a lot of myths around what is considered Kosher. Having a Kosher symbol on a product somehow conveys to the consumer that it is safer, purer, or more blessed – and this is simply not true. However these myths got circulated, they fuel the sales of Kosher certified products.
Lastly, Organic consumers do not have their own country and the Jewish people now do, so there is a whole country in which a significant portion of the population keeps Kosher.
ORGANIC AND KOSHER CERTIFICATION – THE “EARTHKOSHER DIFFERENCE”
Both Organic certification and Kosher certification can be costly, time consuming, stress producing and a grind.
However, it doesn’t have to be that way!
EarthKosher is here to make the Kosher certification process simple, affordable, transparent, and fast. For many of our clients this whole process, to the extent possible, is actually a pleasure.
We do this without compromising standards, and we enjoy wide acceptance among Kosher consumers and within the industry as a whole.
EarthKosher offers a free and rapid quote and analysis with no obligation.
We take you through the process as much as possible before you pay a penny so that you get to know our manner or working and feel confident in who you are working with and what we are doing.
Remember, there is no obligation, and we are here to help you find the best way to get your own kosher certification symbol. We look forward to hearing from you today.