The Difference Between Halal And Kosher Foods

“The noble Islamic law deals with all issues.” —Imam Dr. Abd Al-Rahman Al-Sudayis

In A Nutshell

Both Islamic and Jewish traditions include very strict dietary guidelines on what is acceptable to eat and what is considered unclean and unacceptable. While there are many similarities—pork and pork products are unacceptable for both—there are differences in how the meat portion of a diet is slaughtered and prepared. There are also many subtle differences in what whole foods are and aren’t allowed. For example, seafood is halal if it lives its entire life in the water, while shellfish are not kosher regardless.

The Whole Bushel

The term halal comes from an Arabic word meaning “allowed” or “permitted by Islamic law” and is applied to those foods that are acceptable for consumption by those of the Islamic faith. Similarly, kosher is a word that means “fit” or “proper,” and is applied to those foods that are acceptable for consumption under Jewish law. In both, guidelines extend to not only traditional food items, but also to cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Food must also be prepared in an acceptable manner in both; to deviate from the ritual practices, slaughter and preparation is to render the food unfit.

In order for a meal to be considered kosher, there must be no mixing of meat and dairy. This extends to preparation as well as consumption, and different sets of tools, utensils, plates, and pans must be used for each type of food. Meat and dairy must be prepared in separate areas of the kitchen, and there can be no cross-contamination. There are no similar restrictions to under halal guidelines.

No form of alcohol is considered halal under Islamic guidelines. By extension, no food prepared with alcohol is halal, either, including vanilla extract (and, by further extension, anything containing vanilla extract). Kosher dietary guidelines are quite different, though. Alcohol plays a very important role in Jewish culture, but it’s governed by the same guidelines that apply to foods. Wine presents a particular difficulty; since it’s still used in a wide variety of religious ceremonies outside of Judaism, the only wines deemed kosher are those prepared and handled specifically by Jews. This puts limitations on other types of alcohol, such as whiskey, that can be aged in wine barrels. These are not appropriate or kosher, but whiskey and scotch are as long as they were not aged in wine barrels. Other types of alcohol, such as white rum, white tequila (no tequila with a worm is kosher), unflavored vodkas, rye alcohol, unflavored gin, and all beers are kosher. Alcohols like sake, mead, brandy, liqueurs, and spiced rum may be consumed as long as they have certifications that no non-kosher ingredients were used in their production.

There are two different schools of thought governing the question of whether or not seafood is considered halal. On one hand is the belief that all seafood is halal whether it has scales or a shell, as long as it lives its entire life in the water. The other argument is that only fish that have scales are considered halal, excluding shellfish, crustaceans and smooth-skinned water dwellers like eel from being acceptable foods. Animals that live in both water and on land, such as frogs and turtles, are not halal. In order for seafood to be kosher, it must be a fish that has both scales and fins. Shellfish, mollusks, and smooth-skinned fish are not considered kosher.

Of utmost importance in both religions is the way in which an animal is killed for its meat. There are very strict guidelines that much be followed for each, and there are differences between the sets of guidelines. The slaughter of a kosher animal must be overseen by a shochet, a man of the Jewish faith who has been schooled in the proper procedures for a kosher slaughter. In order for meat to be halal, it simply must be slaughtered in the proper way, regardless of who performs the killing.

In both practices, the animal’s throat is cut, and it is drained of blood. The spinal cord must not be severed. Death is said to occur within seconds, but animal rights groups worldwide have long campaigned to have the practice outlawed, or, alternately, stun the animal before it is killed. In both traditions, the animal needs to be alive, healthy, and uninjured when it is blessed and the slaughtering process begins. There is debate within Islamic law on whether or not stunning the animal first violates this rule, but Jewish law is very clear on the matter. Stunning methods cause injury to the animal, making the meat that ultimately comes from it non-kosher.

Show Me The Proof

Halal Malaysia: Definitions
Kosher Certification: Meat, Dairy & Pareve
Kosher Wine And Grape Products
Kosher-Certified Liquor List
Islamic Food And Nutrition Council of America: Halal Digest — Seafood
Guide To Understanding Halal Foods
Jewish Practice: What’s Wrong with Stunning?
Is Kosher Meat Ḥalāl? A Comparison

  • Pinoyat

    Malaysia’s definition of halal is too restrictive.

    If you apply Malaysia’s standard of halal, muslim Malaysians (I had to differentiate between muslim and non muslim Malaysians since there is a considerable minorities of non muslims Malaysians) everywhere can only eat halal products in Malaysia.

    The moment they step outside of Malaysia, they are screwed.

    • Pfft

      it’s not malaysia’s halal standard, it’s Islam’s standard. The writer just use the Malaysia’s written guideline for his reference. And sorry to say you are wrong again about it’s hard to get halal food outside a muslim country. This is 2013.

  • Hadeskabir

    This is one of the reasons that I’m happy to be an atheist.

    • WhiteExodus

      Well on the bright side at least its gives those foods (kosher and halal) a unique taste….in a way…..I tasted both Kosher and Halal foods from my Muslim and Jewish friends and they tasted….Meh.

  • Andy West

    And I thought I was a picky eater!

  • CeledonaMargaretteBlanco

    The moment your religion dictates what you eat, it’s time to ditch it.

  • Garu Derota

    There’s only 1 thing more insane than religion: religious people.

  • Mayisha Kabir

    the term halal is not ‘just’ related to food but to any thing that is permissible, which does not necessarily have to do with eating, but the term Kosher or ‘kashrut’ is specifically related to dietary regulations.

  • Mikey Godsey

    You left out facing the animal toward Mecca before the killing stroke.

  • UN

    im starting to think muslims and jews have more in common than they are ready to admit.

    • Boaz Dicks

      they are and do admit to many similarities, Islam afterall takes from the same tradition as Judism (all of the prophets to the jew and christians are muslim prophets), but they are fundamentally different religions. Their slight differences amount to major theological and moral differences

      • Mr rogers

        huge difference Muslims are allowed to eat Kosher but Jews are not allowed to eat Halal.

        Kosher vs. Halal:

        Kosher – requires the animal be slaughtered quickly and humanely, strictly forbidding cruel slow methods like strangulation.

        Halal – requires the animal be bled out in agony while sick people who get off watching that kind of thing have a “festival.”

        Kosher – requires the blood be drained cleanly from the *carcass* of the humanely killed animal, removing toxins released from cells into the bloodstream at the moment of death from the meat.

        Halal –leaves the meat *filled* with toxins released at the moment of death because the blood is removed while the animal is dying and therefore is not present in sufficient quantities to remove those last toxins.

        Kosher – contains little to no cortisol or norepenepherine (two stress chemicals that are similar enough from mammal to mammal to cross species) because the animal to be killed is treated well before it is put down and is generally not frightened as it is put down (because in a truly kosher slaughter situation, animals cannot be slaughtered in a sequential fashion, as the waste of one could contaminate the next, so they are not exposed to the “scent of death” the way non-kosher culls are)

        Halal – animals watch other animals die during the blood letting festival, smelling their fear and raising their own stress. These stress chemicals “marinate” the meat in hormones known to raise levels of aggression and violence in nearly all mammal species (including human).

        Kosher – requires cooking the cleanly drained meat completely, cooking any remaining stress chemicals into oblivion.

        Halal – allows for a surprising range of cooking methods, including even some “tar tar” dishes (raw or nearly raw), allowing for the spread of disease and chemicals and hormones that were not removed by the idiotic slow bloodletting practice and half-measure cooking.

        Kosher – the spinal cord is sectioned thus cutting off pain to the brain. Therefore, no suffering or terror.

        Halal – spinal cord left intact.

    • Mr rogers

      no they just copied parts of the jewish bible

    • libertarianone

      One big difference is that Jews celebrate life and Muslims celebrate death.

      • UN

        Friend im a muslim i assure you we celebrate life as well. Dont hold prejudice im not holding any against jews.

  • Errkism

    I’ve never understood the point behind this. It just seems absurd that a religious requirement is to eat certain things prepared in certain ways. Although no part of religion really makes sense.

    • dashkatae

      Actually it makes complete sense if you know anything about food prep. The reason certain animals are not permitted probably had nothing to do with religion but more with that if the meat wasn’t properly prepared, it could kill you. Pork for example can give you Trichinosis which isn’t fun. Seafood can also make you deathly sick. These guidelines were probably put in cause science back then didn’t know what caused these illnesses, so it’s just best to avoid it.

      WE know better now, we know how long things need to cook and what temps things need to be in order to kill the pathogens. Blessing your food and whatnot was probably installed to hope that the food they ate didn’t actually end up killing them.

  • Pfft

    i wonder why humans complain about how God tell them to treat their food. God is… well, GOD. He knows better and more than what a human does. He’s the Fella who created everything. So just shut up and follow His rules. This world aint a place to indulge and keep yakity yak when you are denied pleasures for your own good. It’s a test to pick who is worthy of everlasting paradise. Atheist my ass. You people hv been Freemasonized. You just want to follow things you like and suits you.

  • jswiller

    In general, if halal meat is unavailable, most Moslems will use kosher meat, but.there is a difference. If a.group of animals is.being slaughtered, to be kosher. a blessing must be said once before the slaughtering begins. To be halal a blessing should be made before each animal is slaughtered.

  • Marozia

    They talk a lot about beef, pork, fish, chicken, but what about animals such as lions, tigers, bears. There was an article on a zoo lion being killed so starving Syrians could eat, but the lion was more starved than the people. Surely that isn’t halal!! Then there were pictures of slaughterings in a car boot of animals. Don’t sound too halal to me! Our Australian sheep and cattle are treated abominably by these so-called halal butchering ‘experts’ and some are even starved and abused on these ships. Why not butcher them in an abattoir with the proper halal/kosher authorities present?

    • Michelle Terrell

      In Islam you are not supposed to do anything that could harm you. FOr example, pork is haram (forbidden), but if pork is the only thing available to eat and you’re starving (and I mean starving as in dying), then you eat the pork to survive because not eating the pork would cause you to starve to death.

  • A.A

    Islam is a comprehensive religion which cover all aspects in life including what we may think as petty ones. There is no compulsion in this religion, God forbid to eat haram food because it brings harm, but then again it is your choice to adhere to that rule. There is only 20 percent of haram food in this world. The rest? Enjoy.

  • Angelo A. Sedacca

    In Jewish law, must the slaughtering of an animal be PERFORMED by the shochet or only OVERSEEN by one?

  • Michal Ahinoam

    Camel and Rabbits are Haram/Halal for Muslims so are a number of shellfish. Camels, Rabbits, Shellfish are not kosher at all.

  • R.j. Schultz

    Let them turn into vegetarians

  • Sayyid Yaseen Moulana

    For a meal to be halal, the person slaughtering the animal should be a Muslim… I hope you correct that…

  • Sayyid Yaseen Moulana

    Both halal and kosher way of slaughtering is the humane way… When you cut the throat the pain receptors also goes numb…. The animal doesn’t register any pain…