- To discuss the background surrounding Kosher and its importance to the meat industry.
- To discuss the background surrounding Halal and its importance to the meat industry.
- To compare the similarities and differences between Kosher and Halal.
Kosher and Halal describe what is “fit and proper” to eat for two groups of people, Jews and Muslims. Although these terms are used to describe a wide array of foods and beverages that are acceptable to eat, we will concentrate on meat.
Both of these food laws have their roots in scripture, The Torah for Kosher and The Quran for Halal. We will discuss some general areas for each food law to gain a basic understanding of what each entails.
Clean and unclean animals
Do not eat any detestable thing. These are the animals you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat, the deer, the gazelle, the roe deer, the wild goat, the ibex, the antelope and the mountain sheep. You may eat any animal that has a split hoof divided in two and that chews the cud. However, of those that chew the cud or that have a split hoof completely divided you may not eat the camel, the rabbit or the coney. Although they chew the cud, they do not have a split hoof; they are ceremonially unclean for you. The pig is also unclean; although it has a split hoof, it does not chew the cud. You are not to eat their meat or touch their carcasses.
Of all the creatures living in the water, you may eat any that has fins and scales. But anything that does not have fins and scales you may not eat; for you it is unclean.
Ritual slaughter is known as shechitah, and the person who performs the slaughter is called a “shochet,” both from the Hebrew root Shin-Chet-Tav, meaning to destroy or kill. The method of slaughter is a quick, deep stroke across the throat with a perfectly sharp knife called a “chalaf” with no nicks or unevenness. This method is painless, causes unconsciousness within two seconds, and is widely recognized as the most humane method of slaughter possible.
Another advantage of shechitah is that ensures rapid, complete draining of the blood, which is also necessary to render the meat kosher.
The shochet is not simply a butcher; he must be a pious man, well-trained in Jewish law, particularly as it relates to kashrut. In smaller, more remote communities, the rabbi and the shochet were often the same person.
Glatt Kosher meat
“Glatt” means “smooth” and refers to the lung of the animal during inspection. The inspectors (“bodeks”) examine certain organs from each animal. The lungs of each Kosher-killed animal are examined for any adhesion or other defects. If there are adhesions, the bodeks will attempt to blow up the lungs to see if they will hold air. If they can, the meat is Kosher.
Glatt Kosher meat must be soaked and salted with 72 hr of slaughter, since it is not customarily subjected to the extra spraying (“begissing”) that can keep meat moist prior to soaking and salting.
Meat and dairy
Exodus 23:19; Exodus 34:26; Deuteronomy 14:21.
“Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.”
These passages have been interpreted as meaning that meat and dairy cannot be eaten together. This separation includes not only the foods themselves, but the utensils, pots and pans with which they are cooked, the plates and flatware from which they are eaten, the dishwashers or dishpans in which they are cleaned, and the towels on which they are dried. A kosher household will have at least two sets of pots, pans and dishes: one for meat and one for dairy.
One must wait a significant amount of time between eating meat and dairy. Opinions differ, and vary from three to six hours. This is because fatty residues and meat particles tend to cling to the mouth. From dairy to meat, however, one need only rinse one’s mouth and eat a neutral solid like bread, unless the dairy product in question is also of a type that tends to stick in the mouth.
The Yiddish words fleishig (meat), milchig (dairy) and pareve (neutral) are commonly used to describe food or utensils that fall into one of those categories.
Note that even the smallest quantity of dairy (or meat) in something renders it entirely dairy (or meat) for purposes of kashrut. For example, most margarines are dairy for kosher purposes, because they contain a small quantity of whey or other dairy products to give it a dairy-like taste. Animal fat is considered meat for purposes of kashrut.
If the place where the Lord your God chooses to put his Name is too far away from you, you may slaughter animals from the herds and flocks the Lord has given you, as I have commanded you, and in your own towns you may eat as much of them as you want. Eat them as you would gazelle or deer. Both the ceremonially unclean and the clean may eat. But be sure you do not eat the blood, because the blood is the life, and you must not eat the life with the meat. You must not eat the blood; pour it out on the ground like water. Do not eat it, so that it may go well with you and your children after you, because you will be doing what is right in the eyes of the Lord.
Blood is forbidden to be consumed. This is the reason why complete bleeding and soaking of meat in salt and water is so important in removing residual blood.
Avoidance of the sciatic nerve
That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”The man asked him, “What is your name?””Jacob,” he answered.
Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.” Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”
But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”
The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon.
The sciatic nerve and its adjoining blood vessels may not be eaten. The process of removing this nerve is time consuming and not cost-effective, so most American slaughterers simply sell the hind quarters to non-kosher butchers.
Jewish Dietary Laws — Four “Genders”
- Religiously slaughtered
- Salting and soaking to remove blood
- Includes processing equipment (becomes “meat”)
- Milk from kosher animals
- Processed products from milk and all equipment become “dairy”
- Also referred to as “neutral” (neither meat or dairy)
- Not kosher (unclean)
During the eight days of Passover, which falls in March or April, Kosher requirements change. In many Jewish households, two entirely separate sets of meat and dairy dishes and utensils are used for this holiday alone. The basis of Passover’s special requirements is to avoid any leavened grains or related materials, a a commemoration of the Jews’ hasty departure from Egypt before the bread they were baking had time to rise.
Passover requirements impact products such as processed meats manufacturing. Substitute ingredients must be found for some of the products such as sugar and flour.
- No ingredients derived from the five major grains
- Wheat, oats, rye, barley, spelt
- Corn and rice also prohibited since could be confused for one of the five major grains
- No ingredients derived from legumes
- No extracts derived from legumes or the five major grains
- No mustard
What to eat and not to eat
Quran: Surah 2:172-173.
O ye who believe!
Eat of the good things
That We have provided for you
And be grateful to Allah
If it is Him ye Worship
He hat only forbidden you
Dead meat, and blood.
And the flesh of swine
And that on which
Any other name hat been invoked
Besides that of Allah.
Objection to swine includes (from the study notes in the Quran)
- That they are filthy animals in other respects, and the flesh of filthy animals taken as food affects the eater,
- That swine’s flesh has more fat than muscle-building material,
- That it is more liable to disease than other kinds of meat: e.g., trichinosis, characterized by hair-like worms in the muscular tissue.
Saying Allah’s name
Quran: Surah 6:118.
So eat of (meats)
On which Allah’s name
Hath been pronounced.
If ye have faith
In His signs
Quran: Surah 6:121.
Eat not of (meats)
On which Allah’s name
Hath not been pronounced:
That would be impiety
But the evil ones
Ever inspire their friends
To contend with you
If ye were to obey them,
Ye would indeed be Pagans.
One differentiation between Halal and Kosher is that before slaughter, Halal requires the praying to Allah. Kosher does not require a prayer to God before slaughtering.
There are strict laws guiding the slaughtering of animals
- Any Moslem having reached puberty is allowed to slaughter after saying the name of Allah and facing Makkah (Mecca).
- The animal should not be thirsty at slaughter time.
- The knife must be sharp, to minimize the time and hence save the animal pain associated with the slaughtering process.
- The knife must not be sharpened in front of the animal because it may cause undue stress to that animal.
- The slaughter is to be done by cutting the throat of the animal or by piercing the hollow of the throat, causing the quickest death with the least amount of pain.
- The name of Allah has to be mentioned before or during slaughtering, since the Creator is the granter and taker of life; the name must be said by a member of the Moslem faith.
- Meat slaughtered by people of the Jewish or Christian faith (People of the Book) may also be eaten.
- The blood must be completely drawn from the carcass.Saud Twaigery and Diana Spillman, An Introduction to Moslem Dietary Laws, Food Technology, February, 1989.
Key Issues for Halal Foods
350,000 to 400,000 Muslims in U.S. prisons
- Many are converted to the Islam faith in prison
- Suits in California and New Jersey regarding having Halal foods
- Texas Department of Criminal Justice prepares beef franks and bologna for “lock-down” days
Number of Muslims increasing in Texas
- Impact on sheep and goat market
- Many sheep and goats are slaughtered in Muslim backyards during various celebrations
Links to related sites
Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NIV) are from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.
The “NIV” and “New International Version” trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society.