Halal and Kosher are terms often heard in the context of meat and dairy, and although it's common knowledge that the terms refer to guidelines on what can be consumed and what cannot, few know what either really means, let alone how they differ. "Is this kosher?" has become a common expression that has transcended the context of religion and food to the point that it simply means "Is this acceptable?" in a colloquial sense.
Halal and Kosher refer to what's permitted by Islamic and Jewish religious laws respectively. Halal is an Islamic term that means lawful or permitted. Although halal in a broad sense can refer to anything that's permitted by Islam, it's most often used in the context of permissible dietary habits, specifically when it comes to meat consumption. Kosher is a similar term used to describe food that is proper or fit for consumption according to Kashrut, the Jewish dietary law. This comparison will restrict itself to the context of religious dietary laws.
“Halal” is an Arabic word meaning lawful or permissible. Halal food is food permitted for consumption according to the Islamic dietary law as dictated by the Quran. Foods that is not permissible is called haram meaning unlawful or prohibited.
The word” Kosher”, meaning proper or fit, originates from the Hebrew word “Kashrut”. Food that conforms to the Kashrut, the Jewish Dietary law is said to be kosher and fine for consumption. Kosher laws are derived from the Torah.
These dietary laws don't just restrict themselves to a the specifics of a type of food, but also include how the food is prepared for consumption, and what other food can or cannot be eaten in combination with it.
According to Islamic law only certain types of meat are considered to be clean for consumption:
- All Cattle
- All types of buck
All animals other than fish and locust are considered halal only when they are slaughtered according to certain guidelines.
Which foods are kosher?
Kosher law disallows eating some animals; and for those that may be eaten, there are rules for how to slaughter and which part of the animal may be eaten. The following are permitted:
- Animals that have hooves split in two and chew the cud. e.g., cows, sheep, goats and deer are kosher. Other animals — like rabbits, pigs, dogs, squirrels, cats, bears, horses and camels — are not kosher.
- Birds like chicken, goose, duck, turkey and even pigeons are kosher. Predatory and scavenger birds are not kosher.
- Fish that have fins and scales like tuna, salmon, carp, herring, flounder and pike.
Islamic law prohibits certain animals and meat products to be haram or unlawful:
- Meat not slaughtered according to Islamic Law
- Animals whose blood is not fully drained.
- Pig and other by products.
- Donkey & Mule
- Dead animals
- Carnivorous animals
- Birds of Prey
- Any marine animals except for fish.
- All Insects except for Locust.
- Animal Blood & Reproductive organs
- Pancreas & Gall Bladder
The following animals and meat products are not considered kosher according to Jewish Dietary law:
- Animals not slaughtered according to Jewish law.
- Animals whose blood is not fully drained.
- Predatory and Scavenger birds
- Shellfish, catfish, sturgeon, swordfish, lobster, shellfish, crabs and all water mammals
- Reptiles and amphibians
- Milk, eggs, fat, organs obtained from prohibited animals.
Meat is considered to be halal if it is clean, lawful and slaughtered with certain guidelines:
- The slaughterer should be Muslim.
- The animal should be prayed over before slaughter.
- The knife must be sharp to minimize pain.
- The throat of the animal is cut and the knife may not be lifted before the cut is complete.
- The Trachea, Esophagus and both jugular veins must be severed or at least three of the four arteries must be severed for the meat to be Halal.
- All the blood should be drawn from the animal.
For meat to be kosher, the animal is slaughtered following certain guidelines:
- The “Shochet “or slaughterer should be Jewish with knowledge of Jewish laws.
- The slaughter should be a quick, deep stroke with no nicks.
- All blood should be drawn from the animal.
- The lungs of the animal are inspected to make sure there are no defects to deem the meat Kosher.
Kosher and Halal Certification
Halal certification agencies like the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America ensure that halal certified food is widely available in the United States.
Kosher certified food is widely available with certifications conducted by various agencies spread across the United States.
According to Islamic law, intoxicating plants, food additives derived from prohibited food, alcohol, and other intoxicants are not halal.
Further religious guidelines for food consumption
Jewish dietary laws state not only meat and dairy cannot be consumed together but they also need to be cooked in separate utensils. There cannot be a common set of utensils to cook meat and dairy.
This video takes you through what it takes to prepare a kosher meal:
- Which Animals are Kosher?
- Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America (IFANCA)
- Kashrut: Jewish Dietary Laws - Judaism 101
- Kosher Symbols - KosherQuest
- Kosher and Halal - Texas A&M University
- What is Halal? - IFANCA
- Halal Advocates of America
- Halal Food Guidelines - Department of Halal Certification
- Yahweh's Restoration Ministry
- Islamic Services of America
- Halal method of calming a lamb before slaughter (YouTube video)
- How to legally carry out religious slaughter (UK government guidance)