What does it mean to eat Halal or Kosher food?
Many people are interested in these dietary traditions for a number of
reasons. Let’s take a look.
Halal and Kosher foods are those that are allowed by Islamic and Jewish
religious laws respectively. Halal means lawful or permitted and, although
Halal can refer to anything that's permitted by Islam, it's most
often used to refer to permissible dietary habits and is typically associated
with eating meat. Kosher describes food that is permitted for consumption
according to Jewish dietary law (called Kashrut).
Interestingly, there are many similarities between Halal and Kosher, especially
in choices of meat. Pork is forbidden by both faiths, as are amphibians,
birds of prey and most insects. Also, both faiths prohibit consuming blood.
Another similarity is that the animal must be killed quickly and in a way
to minimize pain. All blood must be drained, and the animal must be examined
to ensure that it is fit for consumption. Also, only healthy animals can
be used, meaning that a sick animal or so called "downer cattle"
would be rejected by the butcher before being killed.
As for processing, halal foods are made ready for market according to the
same standards as any other food. Kosher foods go through a process that
includes an inspection of the organs and soaking in salt water before
packaging. The meats are also salted inside and out to remove the last
remaining traces of blood. There is some evidence that this salt water
cleansing can reduce salmonella risks, and perhaps rid the meat of other
harmful microbes. Yet, other studies have found because this water is
cold, bacteria could remain in the meat until it is cooked.
It should be noted that Halal and Kosher certification does not mean that
the food is free from harmful microbes or contaminating chemicals. However,
because there is an inspection to ensure the meat is fit to eat, there
are precautions. Also, Kosher and Halal slaughterhouses in the U.S. are
frequently inspected to ensure the product meets government standards.
Other studies have shown that the 'bleeding out' of the slaughtered
animal may provide additional protection against potentially infectious
organisms which could reside in the blood.
So, is eating according to Halal or Kosher any healthier? It’s agreed
that the focus is on keeping to religious laws rather than science-based
precautions against disease. However, many people believe that the extra
steps that are taken to prepare the meat make it a preferable choice.
Also, know that there are movements toward organic Halal and Kosher meats.
And there are those who believe that simply taking the time to be more
discerning about what you eat prompts overall healthier nutrition choices.
Of course, if you are truly concerned about how animals are treated, the
best option is to go
vegetarian. Many observant Muslims and Jews prefer this choice but note that they
must still observe other dietary laws of their faith. For example, vegetarian
dishes prepared with alcohol would not be Halal, and both observant Jews
and Muslims only eat meals –vegetarian or otherwise – that
are prepared in kitchens where their dietary laws are practiced.
Kosher or Halal? It’s your choice and, in this case, if it brings
spiritual health along with physical health, it may be the right choice for you.
What are your family's favorite foods in the dietary laws and traditions
of your faith? Share a recipe or comment below.
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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical
care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.