Meat with Soy Milk and Non-Dairy Products
Now that I live on my own I have been using soy milk instead of dairy to avoid problems of milk and meat. Sometimes I deliberately mix them together. This got me thinking that perhaps there is something wrong with this since it so closely resembles actual meat and milk. Is there any reason for concern?
The Aish Rabbi Replies
It’s a very good question. This issue is discussed in some of the classic works of Jewish law. The issue was first raised in the 1500’s regarding the Rice Dream of their time – almond milk. Although such products are clearly not true milk and not included in the Torah’s prohibition, perhaps if one Jew would see another consuming it together with meat he would wrongly get the impression that true milk with meat is also permitted – or that his fellow is not a very good Jew.
This in fact has a precedent in the Talmud (Keritot 21b). The Talmud discusses an unrelated topic with a similar concern – fish blood. The Torah does not forbid the blood of kosher fish (neither do they have to be slaughtered). Yet some species have blood which much resembles animal blood, which is forbidden. The Sages therefore ruled that although fish blood is kosher, one should not consume it by itself because of the onlookers – unless there is some indication of its source, such as if some of the scales are mixed with the blood.
Based on this, some of the early authorities advised that before consuming meat with almond milk, one should make some indication that the milk is non-dairy, such as leaving a few almonds on the side. The equivalent today would be to serve soy milk or non-dairy creamer in their containers. The authorities add, however, that since this is only a precaution, if a person does not have almonds available, he may still eat the food.
Today, since non-dairy products are so common – margarine, soy milk, rice milk, non-dairy creamer, pareve ice cream, etc. – there are authorities who feel there is no reason for concern at all. Just seeing ice cream or non-dairy creamer served at the end of a meat meal will not lead the average onlooker to assume that meat and milk are being eaten together.
There is also further room to distinguish between actually cooking the meat with the milk equivalent – which appears like the Torah prohibition – versus just serving it during the same meal, quite possibly after the meat has been removed from the table – which only resembles a rabbinical decree. And further, there is room to distinguish between doing this in public versus in private, where there are no onlookers to be misled.
In practice, since you are generally eating in private, the only case you need be concerned with is actually cooking the soy milk with meat. If you do so, you should leave the milk container next to the food. In a public setting, you would be able to eat dairy equivalents at the end of the meal, after the meat has been taken away, but not together with the meat (even if they’re not cooked together), unless again the package is nearby.
One final detail is that none of this is a concern if the non-dairy item is not visible at all. If it was mixed into the meat or another item eaten during the meal and cannot be seen, there is no concern at all about onlookers, so no precaution need be taken.
(Sources: Talmud Keritot 21b, Maharshal 25:52, Rema Y.D. 87:3 with Taz and Shach, Laws of Kashrus pp. 187-189.)