Centuries before Michael Pollan came up with his Food Rules, two of the world’s most significant religions laid down the laws for preparing and eating our sustenance. We see the halal and kosher seals of approval at the grocery store, and especially on meat signifying that the food was prepared in a strict manner, abiding by long-held principles.

Although we love to think of food as a simple pleasure, it’s also quite complicated. Food is political. And it can be spiritual or religious too. Two major ways we can see this fact is through comparing kosher and halal rules. Observed by Jews, kosher is a Hebrew word for fit or proper, often in reference to food. Muslims use the Arabic word halal to describe food that is permissible.

Both religious laws call for quick slaughtering techniques to cause the animal the least amount of pain. So that’s nice. (Although, eating according to vegan principles might be the nicest of all from the animal’s perspective, but that’s another story.)

These are some of the differences between the food laws of the two major world religions, partially according to Mustafa Farouk at the 2013 International Congress of Meat Science and Technology, provided by Texas A&M University, Judaism 101 and KIR Kosher certification:

  • Kosher law prohibits eating shellfish, land animals with scales, and birds of prey, but halal does not. Both kosher and halal rules prohibit eating pork.
  • Halal rules prohibit intoxication through wine, liquor, beer, or drugs, but kosher law does not (well, drinking wine is OK).
  • Kosher law prohibits mixing dairy and meat as well as the cooking, serving, and cleaning utensils used for them, but halal law does not.
  • Slaughtering a stunned animal is accepted in halal law, but not in kosher rules, according to researchers.
  • Halal rules allow for eating the whole animal, but kosher law prohibits eating the hind quarters.
  • Halal law requires praying to Allah before or while each animal is slaughtered, but kosher does not require prayer before each slaughter.
  • A shochet, or specially trained rabbi, must slaughter the animal, while any adult Muslim, Christian, or Jew can slaughter the animal in halal law.
  • Residual blood in meat is fine in halal rules, but not in kosher rules, which call for rapid, complete draining of the blood at the time of slaughter.
  • Kosher meat is acceptable in halal law, but halal meat is unacceptable to those following kosher rules.

Learn more about halal and kosher foods through our videos, recipes, articles, photo galleries, and community discussions.

— Head photo: Bite Size Vegan.

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