Here’s What You Should Know About Halal Meat

updated Aug 21, 2023
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Credit: Leela Cyd

Halal is an Arabic word that means “permissible.” In terms of food, it means food that is permissible according to Islamic law. In fact, it is the only type of meat observant Muslims are permitted to eat. Halal designation for meat is an important concept and belief associated with food for this religious community, and foods that are not permitted are called haram.

For a meat to be certified halal it cannot be a forbidden cut (such as meat from hindquarters) or animal (such as pork) and it must be slaughtered in a specific way. Many Muslims can shop with ease at a local halal market, where all of the products are designated halal.

Here’s what you need to know about halal meat.

What meat is considered halal?

  • Beef
  • Lamb
  • Chicken
  • Fish
  • Venison
  • Game birds

Unlike Jewish kosher dietary laws, Islamic halal laws allow the eating of shellfish and crustaceans, land birds such as ostriches, and camel meat. And as anyone who’s ever tucked into a lamb shawarma with yogurt sauce knows, there aren’t any restrictions around the combination of meat and dairy.

What meat is not considered halal?

  • Pork
  • Reptile meat

How is halal meat slaughtered?

The slaughter of a halal animal is called “zabihah” and there are certain guidelines to follow:

  • Allah’s (God’s) name must be pronounced during slaughter.
  • The instrument must be very sharp to ensure humane slaughter. The animal must be slit at the throat.
  • The animal must not be unconscious
  • The animal must be hung upside down and allowed to bleed dry. (Eating blood is not halal.)
  • These steps must be accomplished by a Muslim or the People of the Book (Christian or Jew). (Many observant Muslims find kosher meat acceptable.)
  • The animal must have been fed a natural diet that did not contain animal by-products.
  • A halal animal must live a healthy life that’s free from suffering.

Because the industrial meat system is so fraught with animal abuse, some Muslims advocate for a meat-free diet, arguing that the product of such a system can never be halal, no matter how the animal is slaughtered.

For a more complete list of halal guidelines see this guide to understanding halal foods PDF from the Halal Research Council.