Basic Premises and Definitions
Often, Muslim consumers tend to assume ‘Kosher’ is similar to ‘Halal.’ Although the slaughtering rituals of Jewish people resemble those of Muslims, Kosher and Halal are two different dietary guidelines carrying different meanings and spirits. Muslims, therefore, are provided with the following basic information about Kosher so that they can exercise care in distinguishing Halal from Kosher.
Jewish laws and tradition (Halacha -meaning the way) originate from the Torah – meaning ‘to guide or to teach,’ and the oral traditions recorded in the Talmud – meaning ‘instructions or learning.’ Kashrut (in Hebrew) is the system of Jewish dietary laws. Kosher (Kasher in Hebrew) means ‘fit, or proper for use’ according to Jewish law. Examples of Kosher food and drinks are the meat of the ‘fore quarter*’ of the cattle slaughtered according to the rituals, fruits, vegetables, all fish with fins and scales*, all wines*, all cheeses*, gelatin*.
(*) These foods exhibit a marked difference between Kosher and Halal and Trefah and Haram. These differences are explained elsewhere in this section.
The opposite of Kosher, as applied to food, is Treif (in Yiddish), or Trefah (in Hebrew), meaning ‘not suitable for use,’ or ‘forbidden.’ Trefah literally means ‘torn by a wild beast’ (Exodus 22:30). Examples of Trefah are blood, swine, camel*, rabbit*, all shellfish*, wild birds such as wild hen*, wild duck*, wild goose*, the birds of prey.
The religious procedure of ritual slaughtering of permitted (Kosher) land animals and birds.
Three Basic Principles
There are three basic principles in the observance of Kashrut:
(1) The separation of meat and dairy products, including their respective dishes and utensils used for cooking and eating. Meat and dairy products are not to be eaten together at the same meal.
(2) Permitted Foods:
Following are the permitted foods:
(a) Fleishik (in Yiddish): Any meat or poultry product or product containing meat derivatives.
(b) Milkhik (in Yiddish): Any milk or milk-based food
(c) Pareve (in Yiddish): Neutral foods that are neither meat nor dairy, such as fish with fins and scales, eggs, grains, fruits, vegetables, etc.
Preparation of Meat
The Kosher cattle or fowl must be slaughtered according to Jewish slaughtering rituals (Shechita), and the process of Kashering must remove the blood. Kashering involves broiling or soaking and salting the carcass.
According to Jewish dietary laws, the sciatic nerve (gid hanasheh) located in the hindquarter of the Kosher cattle or sheep (and a certain kind of fat on the carcass) is forbidden. Consequently, because of the difficulty in removing the sciatic nerve, only the forequarter of a Kosher animal is eaten by Jews. The hindquarter is regarded as non-Kosher unless the sciatic nerve and specific kind of fat are removed from the hindquarter, then it is Kosher.
It is the festival of freedom in commemoration of the deliverance of the Jews from Egypt. During this seven-day festival, there is a ban on eating any leavened food (chametz) according to Exodus 12:15. Five grains are identified as chametz, namely wheat, barley, spelt, rye, and oats. Therefore, the house is thoroughly cleansed of leaven (chametz), and only non-leavened products are consumed during this week.
There are three main dietary concerns with Kosher, i.e., Allowed (Kosher) animals; Prohibition of blood; and Prohibition of mixing of milk and meat. All foods and equipment are defined as belonging to one of the four categories, i.e., Meat (Fleishik); Dairy (Milkhik); Neutral (Pareve); and Unacceptable (Treifa).
Halal Definitions and Principles
Halal is a comprehensive Islamic term encompassing not only food and drink but all other matters of daily life. The rituals in all matters are being perfected by Islam (Al-Qur’an 5:3).
According to Islamic Jurisprudence, no one (individual and/or group of people) except Allah can change forbidden (Haram) things into lawful (Halal) or vice-versa. It is prohibited for (an individual and/or a group of people) to change the lawful (Halal) things into (Haram) or vice-versa.
Halal is a unique Islamic concept, and eating Dhabiha (Islamically slaughtered) meat is a distinguishing part of a Muslim’s identity as expressed by Prophet Muhammad (S).
“Whoever prays as we (Muslims) pray and faces the direction of the Ka’abah (during prayer) and eat our slaughtered animals, that is a Muslim for who is the protection of Allah and His messenger.”
The Relationship between Halal and Kosher
Jewish dietary law is explicit that it does not consider everything that falls under the domain of Halal as Kosher. Similarly, Islamic dietary law does not consider everything Kosher as Halal. This distinction is critical and will be expounded on further in this article.
Although the Kosher slaughtering (Shechita) according to Kashrut ritual resembles that of the Islamic practice of slaughtering (Dhabh), the following differences can be noted:
(a) Halal requires the name Of Allah to be mentioned individually on each animal during slaughtering.
“So, eat of (meat) on which Allah’s name has been pronounced if you have faith in His Signs. “
In Judaic practice, it is sufficient to recite the name of God or grace once for the day for all the slaughters.
The Judaic grace is:
“Blessed art Thou, Lord our God, King of the universe, Who hast sanctified us with Thy commandments and commanded us concerning ritual slaughter.”
It is not necessary to repeat the grace by the Shochet (Jewish slaughterman) on each animal or fowl slaughtered. Instead, he may offer prayer (blessing) on the first animal/bird and the last one in the (batch) lot of slaughtered animals/birds of the day.
(b) In Kosher slaughtering, only a specially appointed person (Shochet) is allowed to carry out the ‘shechita,’ and it must be carried out in a single, swift, uninterrupted sweep.
In Islamic slaughtering (Dhabh), any sane Muslim, male or female, who is acquainted with the process of slaughtering can carry out the ‘Dhabh.’
(c) According to Kashrut, the eating of meat itself is a sort of compromise. It is considered a divine concession to human weakness and human need. (Deuteronomy 12:20-21; 23-24).
This belief is contrary to the Islamic stand for the Qur’an says:
“It is Allah Who made cattle for you, that you may use some for riding and some for food.”
Islam considers the entire cattle or sheep as Halal if duly slaughtered, but Jews use only the forequarter as Kosher and consider the hindquarter as non-Kosher due to the presence of the sciatic nerve. However, if the sciatic nerve and a certain kind of fat are removed from the hindquarter, it is Kosher.
Other significant differences between Kosher and Halal are in the following categories:
Halal laws consider camel, rabbit, shellfish, wild hens, goose, and duck as permissible to eat, while these are considered Trefah (forbidden) according to Kashrut.
Islam prohibits all intoxicating alcohols, liquors, wines, and drugs. However, Kashrut regards some wines as Kosher. Hence food items and drinks showing the Kosher symbol need not necessarily be Halal. This is a critical factor when considering if a certified Kosher product is Halal.
Halal vs. Kosher Gelatin
Gelatin is considered Kosher regardless of its source of origin. For example, if the gelatin is prepared from swine, Muslims believe it Haram (prohibited). Hence food items such as marshmallows, yogurt, etc., showing Kosher symbols are not necessarily Halal. For gelatin to be considered Halal, it must be sourced from a Halal-harvested animal and produced according to Halal standards.
(d) Enzymes (irrespective of their sources, even from non-Kosher animals) in cheese making are considered mere secretion (Pirsah b’ almah) according to Kashrut, and hence all cheeses are considered Kosher. Muslims look for the source of the enzyme in cheese making. If it is coming from the swine, it is considered Haram (forbidden). Hence cheeses showing Kosher symbols need not necessarily be Halal.
(e) In Judaism, meat and dairy products may not be eaten together in the same meal. The dishes and utensils used for eating and cooking meat and dairy products are also kept separate. Islam does not impose restrictions on eating meat and dairy foods together.
“O you who believe, eat of good things that We have provided for you and be grateful to Allah.”
In Judaism, Kosherization of equipment is required to make the status of the equipment Kosher. A range of process procedures is to be considered depending upon the equipment’s previous production (of meat, dairy, or pareve) history. In Halal production, the equipment is of concern only when it is used for haram production before the Halal run. In such a case, Islam offers a particular procedure (Dibagh) for cleaning the equipment.
The salient differences between Kosher and Halal have been illustrated so that Muslim consumers can distinguish Halal from Kosher.
Islam is a complete way of life (Deen), providing infallible guidance to all its followers in all walks of life. Halal brings immense perfection and satisfaction to Muslim life now and in the Hereafter. Muslims, therefore, do not have to depend on any other set of laws for want of convenience. Islam’s final, divine laws are perfect and the best for all its followers and humankind for all time to come.
Muslims in non-Muslim countries should strive to follow the Islamic injunctions in their diet (as well as in every walk of life) and establish their own businesses and institutions to cater to the needs of the Muslim community and extend the benefits of Islam to their fellow human beings. By doing so, not only the identity of the Muslims will be preserved, but they will be recognized and respected for their beliefs and practices by bringing the benefits of Halal to society at large.
Unification of Halal Standards vs. Variances in Kosher Standards
A common question stakeholders in Halal supply chains have: Does AHF Halal certification have varying acceptability amongst different cohorts of Halal consumers, similar to Kosher certification having varying acceptability amongst different Jewish sects?
Producers and consumers need to understand this question to make informed decisions.
As far as Kosher is concerned, there is variance in standards and acceptability. The classic example is “glatt” Kosher, which is considered a higher level of Kosher. Consequently, the acceptability of the certification varies.
Halal, in contrast, is much more binary and, by-and-large much more uniform. A product or an ingredient is either Halal or haram. Therefore, there is much more uniformity in terms of international Halal standards. However, some subjective interpretations of the laws that govern Halal that theologians may interpret differently in certain circumstances. Nevertheless, in general, once something is certified as Halal, it will be acceptable to all 1.9 billion Halal consumers globally.
What does this mean for producers?
When obtaining Kosher certification, you will want to be cognizant of the fact that acceptance may vary amongst the Kosher-consuming population. Generally, if you receive Kosher certification from larger organizations such as OU or OK, it will be generally accepted.
From a Halal perspective, if you obtain AHF Halal certification, your products will be acceptable to all 1.9 billion Halal consumers globally.
What does this mean for consumers- Are all Kosher products Halal?
No Kosher certification is not a proxy for Halal status. The laws of Kashrut vary from the laws of Halal in some essential respects, as discussed above, and therefore products meeting Kosher requirements do not meet the Halal requirement. There also may be products that are not Kosher but are acceptable for Halal. Additionally, as there are variances in standards, what might be Kosher and Halal according to one standard may not be Halal according to another. Therefore, consumers should seek the independent Halal compliance status of the products.
Halal F&B Market vs. Kosher F&B Market
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Kosher F&B Market
Halal F&B Market
Undoubtedly, Kosher certification carries substantial value for companies that achieve it. However, the numerical analysis exhibits a significant asymmetry, a hidden opportunity for manufacturers and brands. The Halal market is near 58 times larger than the Kosher market globally, and less than 5% of certified F&B packaged products in the US are certified.
If you are interested in learning more about Halal certification, please get in touch with us.