This April 10th, 2012 article explains exactly what kosher means for those of us not raised eating it.
Eating Kosher: Why You Don’t Need to Be Jewish to Eat a (Largely) Kosher Diet
You have been eating kosher all your life. You probably never realized it when your mom served you cookies, pickles, or even apple juice, but whether you are a Jew or a gentile, kosher has been part of your meals from the beginning. It’s everywhere in the supermarket, even if you were not paying attention to those little symbols like the capital “U” in a circle that is the trademark of the “Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations” certifying that a given food is kosher (see more on rabbinical kosher foods and the marks used to certify foods as such see,http://everything2.com/title/kosher+symbols). But if you really look for these symbols you will notice just how prolific kosher foods are at ordinary supermarkets throughout the U.S.
Then there are the Jewish grocery stores and specialty stores found in major cities featuring specific kosher brands many gentiles have never seen in stores before, much less tried. Whether it’s a Jewish bakery featuring every day breads and desserts, Jewish butchers, or even restaurants, you’ll find a dazzling array of kosher foods in major cities.
But, major supermarket brands aside, aren’t kosher foods just for Jews? Originally, perhaps-before pink slime, by-product laden convenience foods, and heavily processed boxed dinners full of ingredients even chemists have a hard time pronouncing! But as we strive to eat healthier and better control what we eat, I’ve discovered the kosher foods I ate by default in Midwood, Brooklyn have qualities that fit very well with my goals for a healthier, less processed diet:
Kosher foods are not made of by-products and garbage meats. By definition, skin, tendons, bones, and other garbage meats are not ground up and put in beef and chicken foods (even hotdogs) certified kosher. While these by-products often make their way into commercial pet foods, humans are specifically not allowed to eat these scrap, “pink-slime” components under rabbinical law.
To be certified kosher EVERY ingredient must comply with rabbinical rules. This limits the number of trace ingredients that are included as part of the processing and what sort of trace ingredients can be included. Kosher is therefore important for those with food allergies as it requires stricter labeling than currently required by the FDA, limiting allergen exposure risks.
Most fresh, whole fruits and vegetables are kosher. There is a reason you don’t buy apples or cranberries with a sticker on it certifying them as kosher. That is because fresh, whole fruits and vegetables are typically kosher. In fact, eating whole fruits and vegetables prepared at home in recipes is one of the easiest ways to keep kosher-but watch any non-fruit or vegetable ingredients like milk, butter, oils, or meats that you might add. Salad dressings can affect whether or not your otherwise veggies remain kosher. While absolute compliance is a non-issue for gentiles (and in fact many veggies a gentile expects to be kosher are not) and less of an issue for many reform Jews, it is helpful for everyone to think about what and how much we add to our fruits and vegetables as it is very easy to destroy many of the health benefits of eating whole fruits/vegetables.
Kosher foods taste good unto themselves. Most non-Jews have not considered eating hamatachen, charoset, challah, kosher sushi, or other distinctly kosher/Jewish foods, but like any other style of cuisine, there are delicious goodies to be found among kosher/Jewish cuisine. Walk into any Jewish bakery in Brooklyn and you will find breads, pastries, and desserts that no one can refuse. Don’t feel you need to be Jewish to indulge; most people who eat Mexican or Italian foods are neither Mexican nor Italian in heritage! Expand your palate!
Consider kosher foods for your pets. This may sound odd, but yes, there is such a thing as kosher pet food. As with human kosher foods, these foods avoid the by-products and junk foods we seen in many traditional brands. The need for strictly kosher pet foods is highly debated across rabbinical literature, but the consensus seems to be kosher pet food is mostly a non-issue except for observant Jews during Passover. At Passover, kosher food for pets is preferred.
Eating kosher is only mandatory for Jews, but with an open mind and a taste for enjoying a broad range of foods, gentiles can discover the healthy benefits and tasty delights of eating Kosher-Jewish cuisine–for you and your pet.
For more information, please see http://everything2.com/title/kosher+symbols, http://star-k.org/kashrus/kk-issues-pets.htm, http://www.evangersdogfood.com/kosher.php,http://www.star-k.org/kashrus/kk-passover-petfood.htm,http://www.epicurious.com/articlesguides/holidays/passover/charosetrecipes,http://www.oukosher.org/index.php/,http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Traditional-Hamantaschen-13706,http://www.epicurious.com/tools/searchresults?search=challah&x=24&y=13.