Lenten Abstinence and Meat By-Products

This time of year several discussions typically take place as to whether meat by-products are covered by the Lenten abstinence obligation. I usually see several opinions that state gelatin-based products, because they have an animal collagen base, are considered meat and cannot be consumed on days of abstinence.

Jello isn’t my concern, but I’m sure many of us - myself included - take medication capsules where the capsule itself is made out of gelatin, so I was wondering if it violated the abstinence regulations to take such medications when abstinence from meat was required.

  1. Medicine in ANY form, or diets prescribed by professional medical advisors (including professional clinical dieticians) have never violated the fast. This includes gelcaps and gelatin capsules which are clearly NOT recognizable to any of the senses as meat.

  2. As regards such products as Jell-O, I have heard it said from authoriative sources that while it might start off as animal products, so many things are done to it that by the time it gets to the store, it is no longer recognizable as meat, either. (But I don’t eat Jell-O anyway.)

  3. There ARE gelatin desserts that are made from algae, which are definitely plants.

If you are living in the 1950’s or are a member of the Eastern Church, meat by-products and other things like, soup stock, milk and cheese cannot be consumed.

The currect regulations of the Latin Church do not prohibit them.

Many yogurts, especially low or no-fat yogurts also contain gelatin to give it consistency.

I think worrying about eating gelatin, especially gelatin in medication capsules, might be an indication of scrupulosity.

Under current regulations, we are not allowed the flesh itself on days of abstinence, but extracts from the flesh of animals, such as gelatin, clear broth, and rendered fat are allowed. Apparently, the change did have to do with the difficulty of knowing whether or not a particular product (such as margarine) had been manufactured using extracts from animals in it, and the desire of the bishops to remove scrupulosity with regards to the question.

If you are intent on avoiding products that have not touched meat whatsoever, for whatever personal reasons you may have (or because you’re cooking for a strict vegetarian or a vegan), look for kosher foods that are labelled parve or pareve. That means the product has not so much as touched meat or milk products. It may contain eggs or sea creatures that are kosher, since those aren’t fleishich (meat) under Jewish dietary law.

Kosher milk products are labelled Cholov Yisroel or Chalav Yisroel, and mean that it contains a milk product that has been supervised from the time of milking.

Just getting food that is kosher is not enough, of course, because Hebrew National beef franks are kosher!

Some foods are labelled vegan, too, which of course does not contain even eggs or seafood. Vegan cheeses are made using a starter not made from rennet, which comes from cows. So that can be a help.

It is important for us to avoid scrupulosity ourselves, but it is a work of charity to make allowances for others who have that weakness. (1 Cor. 10:23-33)

The discussion made me take a trip down memory lane for **historical **reasons only. :slight_smile:

Canon 1250 of the **former **code (1917) stated that the law of abstinence prohibited meat (carne) and soup or broth made from meat, but not however of eggs, milks, and any sort of condiment derived from animal fat. (Abstinentiae lex vetat carne iureque ex carne vesci, non autem ovis, lacticiniis et quibuslibet condimentis etiam ex adipe animalium.)

Ius ex carne is broth or soup made from boiling meat or bones (with marrow flesh). Bouillon crystals or cubes are made in this way. So both broth and reconstituted bouillon would be prohibited. Condimentum ex adipe (from fat) is a seasoning. Fat is distinct from from flesh tissue. The use of beef lard in cooking biscuits or various matas would have been permitted in my opinion. (The use of lard in preparing fish and vegetables at all meals and on all days was allowed by indult, 3 August, 1887.) Jello involved the boiling down of hooves and bones, so it would have been permitted. A gravy of chicken fat would also have been permitted. Clearly carne includes the flesh of mammals and poultry. It does not include amphibians, reptiles and insects.

Prior to 1887, the lard could not be used, either: hence, there was a lot of fat used up on Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras)! But that has been a LONG time ago!

I think I’ll pass on those allowable alternatives.

When well prepared, frogs legs are very tasty. :slight_smile:

Eel and grasshoppers are great as well as frog legs and alligator tail

Certain EC bishops permit meat by-products as well.

Orthodox monastics in community traditonally abstain perpetually from meat.

They will assure you that the gelatin capsule is NOT meat, but medicine.

I also think that different gelatin capsules affect the absorption of the medicine differently, hence they are part of the forumlation of the medicine itself.

Go to Jimmy Akin’s blog and search for the “Annual Lent Fight”. It will answer this question for you. :thumbsup:

Well, it kind of depends on what level of kashrut is being observed. If a person is Glatt kosher, (the strictest form of kosher) that does indeed require Chalev Yisrael dairy products. However, in less stringent kosher circles, cow’s milk is considered kosher and doesn’t need to be supervised by a Jew during the entire milking process and thus doesn’t require the Chalev Yisrael designation. However, cheese and other dairy products do need a kosher designation since animal rennet or gelatin, etc, is sometimes used. (Of course there are also Chalev Yisrael cheeses as well.)

As an aside, as a person born into a Jewish world (even though my immediate family didn’t keep kosher) I find the freedom in Christianity to not have to keep these kosher laws to be such a blessing.

As usual, bpbasilphx provides information with which I can only agree. :slight_smile:

My vegetarian friends also have to pay special attention to whether cheese has rennet in it, etc. I wish for their sakes that more food packaging simply had an emblem on it, like some do for kosher items.

Oh, I only meant that if it had Chalev Yisrael on it, that meant it was milk and would also have no meat whatsoever in it, since it could not have both milk and meat and still be kosher.

And yes, unless health or the actual laws of fasting and abstinence compel, I think it is better to not be so concerned with food, and I don’t just mean easier. I have a lot of sympathy for the gluten-intolerant and those with allergies! For those of us not under the Law, there are better things to be fastidious about.


“The law of abstinence forbids the use of meat, but not of eggs, the products of milk or condiments made of animal fat” (Pope Paul VI, Paenitemini, Norm III, 1).

You don’t have to worry about that. The Lenten fast concerns the taking of MEAT in its natural state into the mouth and body; i.e., pork, beef, poultry, etc. In the Eastern church this also includes fish and shellfish. Jello or pills are not considered a natural state because they do not involve blood.

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