On this page, you can learn about the similarities and differences between organic and kosher certifications. This information is not intended to be comprehensive, nor highly technical. However, salient points will be addressed.
Values and Beliefs behind Organic vs. Kosher Certification
Both organic and kosher certifications are based on values and beliefs that inform and create standards. The main function of any kosher or organic certification agency is to ensure strict compliance with set standards. Both organic 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 caused by 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 (those of us at EarthKosher, 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, often referred to as the Laws of Kashrut. We firmly believe that any contamination or trespass could compromise these laws – and the integrity of a kosher certified product. More than providing a certification, we provide trust for your consumer that the product they are getting upholds their faith and we hold this responsibility with the highest respect. 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. Whatever your belief, a kosher certification is more than just a stamp, but part of a way of life.
Equipment Concerns in Organic & Kosher Certification
In organic certification, there is a concern of equipment being used for non-organic foods, especially if it’s also used for certified organic products. Likewise, with kosher certification, the concerns of kosher products being processed on equipment, or even within the same facility, as truly non-kosher products typically apply.
Government Regulations and other Standards in Organic and Kosher Certifications
One significant difference between organic and kosher certifications is that organic certification is ultimately answerable to the USDA and the federal government. 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 a particular kosher certification agency, his industry peers, and the kosher consumer. Consequently, there are different standards and, not surprisingly, there are disagreements on various issues as to what is proper kosher standard or procedure. This heterodoxy of views should not be overstated, as kosher certification is largely run by the Orthodox rabbinate. This leaves a significant amount of consensus. To estimate, this consensus covers about 80% of the issues, but the other 20% leaves room to sometimes get caught up in these disagreements. So, while there are disagreements about gelatin, carmine, dairy, cheese, bread, oil, and wine production; there aren’t any arguments about pigs, shellfish, meat, milk, etc.
As consumers of organic products, there isn’t much you can do about the certification process or standards. These are government regulated standards, so a simple citizen generally “goes along to get along.”
With Kosher though, you can always refuse to eat a product if it’s not certified by “your rabbi.” Generally, these zero sum game kosher consumers are a minority, of a minority, of a minority. These consumers do have telephones and can be vocal; 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 can try to explain to them that most kosher consumers have never heard of their rabbi, that the standards upheld are high enough for them and many kosher consumers aren’t even Jewish. You can also add that you prefer to work with people that you have a synergy of values with or are more accessible, but this may not get you anywhere.
EarthKosher focuses on kosher certification, not wishing to entangle itself with the federal government more than is absolutely necessary (i.e. paying taxes). It’s not that we are Libertarians or Tea Party activists; it’s just that one higher power (God) is enough for us at the present time, and as you know, Judaism has rules of its own that need to be followed.
Documentation Issues with Organic vs. Kosher Certifications
Organic certification is often concerned with complete documentation of the purity of the organic product. They will want to know the chain from farm, to truck, to manufacturer, to packer, to consumer, etc.
While these factors can also apply to 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. However, they will be concerned with how it is processed. How are your ingredients dried or roasted? Are your ingredients flavored? What else is your drying equipment used for, if anything?
Inspection Issues with Organic vs. Kosher Certifications
Organic certification often calls for an annual inspection.
When it comes to kosher certification, annual inspections are commonplace when dealing with ultra-simple products and processes. However, it’s more common for the kosher certifier to make quarterly or monthly visits. In some situations, a more intensive inspection regimen is required.
Organic certification agencies often schedule their inspections, whereas kosher certification agencies will generally stop by unannounced (after the initial set up of inspections). This helps to prevent potential fraudulence and to maintain the integrity of the certification.
Cost and pricing issues with Organic vs. Kosher Certifications
Organic certification can have a different costing model than kosher certification. The most common model for organic agencies is to charge based on a percent of sales.
This pricing structure is an advantage for small companies (less so for large ones) and is made possible by an annual inspection. If you only have to inspect one time a year and you have someone local performing the inspection, then it is easy to charge smaller companies based on a percent of sales while covering your costs.
In contrast to this model, reputable kosher certification agencies look askance on a cost model that’s based on sales revenue. This includes a variety of reasons:
- First, this sales-revenue pricing model is, in a sense, making the kosher certifier a partner with the company under the kosher certification. This could cause the objectivity of the kosher certifier can be potentially compromised or called into question. This approach can also have a distinctly hyper-capitalistic perception that most sincere rabbis want to avoid. This isn’t a reflection on their political beliefs; instead these rabbis are trying to avoid having the rabbinate and kosher certification associated with any 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, due to the relatively high level of inspections kosher certification requires, the remoteness of some production facilities, and the costs involved in getting experienced staff there; following the organic certification payment plan would be impractical for kosher certifiers.
- Third, the idea of charging a company for kosher certification based on sales revenue would require the rabbi to have access to highly confidential information and places him in a position to have to authenticate this information. This type of relationship normally is not helpful in maintaining camaraderie between a kosher certifier and the company they are working with.
Organic vs. Kosher Certifications – Markets, Sales, and Psychology
Organic and kosher certifications deliver real markets and create sales. However, there are some important distinctions.
While, there are kosher stores that only take kosher certified products, this is not the case for organic products.
Also, it’s common knowledge that if you have distribution on the East Coast for your kosher product, kosher certification is an absolute must. This is not the case for organic certification. People who are generally health conscious tend to prefer products that are certified organic, but if a conventional item looks really pleasing, these customers will sometimes buy a product that’s not certified.
This flexibility normally isn’t the case with kosher products. Kosher consumers will not buy a product that isn’t kosher certified, especially if they sense that a specific product absolutely requires kosher certification (which many products do).
While organic certification is fairly clear in what it stands for (i.e. no chemicals, etc.), for some reason there are a lot of myths revolving around what is considered kosher. Having a kosher symbol on a product sometimes conveys to the consumer that it is safer, purer, or more blessed; this is simply not true. However, these myths got circulated and fuel the sales of kosher certified products.
Lastly, organic consumers do not have their own country. Jewish people now do, so there is a whole country in which a significant portion of the population keeps kosher.
Organic vs. Kosher Certifications – The “EarthKosher Difference”
Organic and kosher certifications can be costly, time consuming, stress inducing, 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 process has actually proven to be a pleasure.
We offer kosher certification, without compromising standards. We also 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. During this analysis, we take you through the process as much as possible before charging you a penny. This way, you get to know our manner and can 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.