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Firstly, is glatt kosher a strict halachic requirement? It seems that some are satisfied with meat that is simply “kosher,” while other people uphold a requirement that their meat be “glatt kosher.” Is this a matter of different sects? Or simply minhag rather than halacha? Some communities somehow going “above and beyond” the strict letter of the law to demonstrate their devotion?

What is the scriptural origin and the scriptural context of the notion of meat being or having to be “glatt” kosher? Really what I’m wondering is what is the significance of adhesions to the lungs when other ethnicities don’t mind the integrity of pulmonary membranes and seem to get on fine. But I expect the answer to that simply to be “because it is a divine commandment.”

And so I am instead asking what is the origin and context of the idea to try to gain some insight from the context of where and when and how it was given.

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Halacha prescribes one cannot eat the meat of a tereifa (based on the Torah verse in Shemot 22:30), an animal who will die in the next 12 months. There is a dispute however as to what this means when inspecting the lungs of the animal to be sure they are free of lesions (this is specific to red meat, not chicken or fish). There are different interpretations of which lesions will lead to the animal's death and therefore prevent us from eating from its meat.

R Yosef Karo, the author of Shulchan Aruch, was stricter in that respect than the Rema, R Moshe Isserles. Sefaradim generally follow R Yosef Karo while Ashkenazim generally follow the Rema. As such different groups of Jews will have different levels of stricture concerning meat.

Glatt means smooth in German/Yiddish, glatt kosher therefore means lungs are "extra-smooth" if you want. Sefaradim, as well as Ashkenazim looking to follow the strictures of the Shulchan Aruch (or extra strictures generally), will therefore look for glatt kosher (or halak in Hebrew) meat.

For more details on the pathological and halachic intricacies, see this very good article from R Dr. Ari Zivotofsky, or here and there.

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