I went out to dinner in Jerusalem with friends from the United States and they were surprised to see filet mignon on the menu. They said that they thought that it is not kosher and that they never saw it at a kosher restaurant before.
Filet mignon is in fact kosher. However, since the meat is close to the “Gid HaNashe”, the sinew in an animal’s leg that the Torah forbids us to eat, a very skilled person is needed to separate the forbidden parts in a process called nikur, tunneling. In the United States, where kosher meat is readily available, most of the hind portions are sold to non-Jews so that the kosher butchers don’t have to deal with this intricate process of removing the “Gid HaNashe” so certain cuts are not available.
The background of why we don’t eat the “Gid HaNashe” comes from Parshat Vayishlach, Breisheet 25-32:
Yaakov fought with the angel prior to his meeting with his brother Esav. When the angel realized that he could not prevail over Yaakov, he struck Yaakov’s hip, dislocating his thighbone from the hip- socket and leaving him with a limp. In consequence, Breisheet 32:33 states “Therefore B’nei Yisrael must not eat the Gid HaNashe (displaced sinew) which is on the spoon of the thigh, to this very day; because he struck the spoon of Yaakov’s thigh, on the displaced sinew.”
The Talmud, Chulin 101b points out that the mitzvah of Gid HaNashe was commanded in Vayishlach as part of the story of Yaakov and the angel and was later commanded at Sinai as well.
In Israel, there is a small market for non-kosher meat so the hind portions are not sold to non-Jews. The entire animal is koshered and the “Gid HaNashe” is removed. Therefore, filet mignion is available in Israel, another good reason to come to Israel (unless you are a vegetarian or you have just become one after reading this article. In that case, we have some great fruits and vegetables here as well).