Any kosher-observant meat lover has probably searched in vain for filet mignon, the most tender, sought-after, and expensive cut of meat in the whole cow. But technically, there is nothing inherently unkosher about this cut of beef. So why is it nearly impossible to find?
Filet mignon comes from the tenderloin, in the hindquarters of the cow, near the sciatic nerve, one of the largest and longest nerves in the body. In Hebrew, the sciatic nerve is called gid hanasheh, and is strictly prohibited from being eaten.
Why is the sciatic nerve unkosher? Because in the book of Genesis, that’s where Jacob was injured when he wrestled with the angel, just before winning and being renamed Yisroel. The Torah then instructs Jews to commemorate this fight against dark forces by avoiding the sciatic nerve.
The process of removing the sciatic nerve and other prohibited blood vessels and tissues to kasher the meat is called nikkur. But it is so labor intensive that it is not cost effective for butchers, and almost all kosher butchers sell the hindquarters of cows to non-kosher producers. However, this doesn’t stop many kosher butchers from selling “filets,” but these steaks are often imitation cuts from other parts of the cow.
But all hope is not lost. True meat aficionados know that filet mignon has relatively little flavor compared to other cuts, and is often over-hyped. The real King of Steaks is the ribeye. That, as the name suggests, comes from the rib section of the cow, which is in the forequarters, making it much easier to find at kosher butchers.