Halal and kosher certifications are increasingly being used to identify meat and poultry products — both raw, unprocessed and fully cooked, prepared — that may be consumed by practicing Muslim and Jewish populations, respectively. While pork is the only meat that categorically may not be consumed by either faith-based demographic, other meats not in a state of purity must also be avoided. Criteria that goes into certification includes source, how the animal died or was slaughtered, and how it was processed.
These certified meats not only appeal to the religious. Growth of both faith-based certifications is being fueled by consumers’ desire for clean-label, allergen-free and animal welfare. While halal certification is mainly used on meat and poultry, kosher expands across all food and beverage, with the varied kosher designations communicating a food’s composition. If it’s certified kosher pareve, for example, it is free of dairy and meat. A pareve item becomes kosher dairy or kosher meat when it is cooked together or includes a dairy or meat food, respectively. The two — dairy and meat — however, can never be together in kosher food or, for that matter, served at a kosher meal.
Both halal and kosher meats come from an animal slaughtered by methodically cutting its throat to ensure insensibility and that the blood is drained from the carcass. The animal must be alive and healthy at the time of slaughter and all blood is drained from the carcass. To receive certification, a religious elder must be present during slaughter. For halal, a prayer is recited.
Meat and poultry further processed into everything from breaded nuggets to jerky must only be made using ingredients with the proper certification, or be recognized as acceptable. All fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, eggs and most dairy products are automatically halal, as long as they do not touch or come into contact with foods that are not halal, namely meat, poultry and fish.
With kosher certification, the equipment and materials used to prepare the product must also be certified kosher. Thus, when a product or establishment is certified kosher, consumers know that it’s in compliance with complex, strict policy of kosher food laws, which include cleanliness, purity and quality.
While halal and kosher are different, it is possible to have the same meat follow both religious methods. That’s what Mohammad Modarres, founder of Interfaith Ventures, New York, now offers with Abe’s Meats. Modarres went into business with the motivation of promoting religious unity after the 2016 US presidential elections brought a steep increase in anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim hate crimes.
Interfaith Ventures is an incubator that promotes religious unity and dialogue through inclusive products and programs. Abe’s Meats is the first brand to offer the first-ever interfaith meat products that are both halal and kosher at the same time.
“Despite similarities in faith-based dietary restrictions between Muslims and Jews, no venture has produced meat products approved for both communities,” he said. “The root of this separation stems from generations of theological, political and financial differences and at times, contention.
“As a result, most halal and kosher meat products are very niche and very expensive for all parties involved across the supply chain,” Modarres said. “By creating meat that combines Muslim and Jewish dietary laws, we show that thousands of years of religious practices can merge.”
Faith-based meats are more accessible in urban America but remain mostly limited to natural product stores and faith-based specialty markets. Even then, the varieties are sparse in order to limit waste and manage costs. Many times, the product is also inferior in quality and nutrition in order to offset production expenses.
“Few spaces outside the home allow the Muslim or Jewish consumer to have the same experiences as the general consumer, such as when they go to a concert or catch a basketball game,” he said. “At Abe’s, we take incredible pride in offering foods that have a positive social, economic and ecological impact, while using our brand to reflect our mission to make high-quality religious foods more accessible, nutritious and delicious for all.”
By having one product — say a beef burger — meet both dietary restrictions, the foodservice channel may be more likely to put it on the menu. To make such interfaith meat, the company follows Zabihah halal and Glatt kosher dietary laws.
“Glatt is an Orthodox interpretation of the kosher practice and has become a more popular process of producing meat over the years,” Modarres explained. “It has gained a reputation as the gold standard within most Jewish communities for requiring additional — and therefore more expensive — steps to the traditional kosher process.”
Zabihah halal is the Glatt kosher equivalent for Muslims.
“Abe’s Meats considers all Orthodox Jewish and conservative Muslim dietary law interpretations to produce its interfaith meat,” Modarres said. “This means Muslims and Jews across all denominations of Islam and Judaism may enjoy our products.”
The company also prioritizes having a positive relationship with the environment, sourcing meat only from ranchers who practice regenerative agriculture.
“Beyond sourcing, we may be one of a few meat companies to openly preach responsible consumption by telling all consumers to ‘buy less, better meat,’” Modarres said.
Abe’s Meats currently offers grass-fed, pasture-raised premium beef that is Glatt kosher and Zabihah halal. To target food businesses that want to create a more inclusive environment, during this start-up period, Modarres is delivering the meats anywhere in New York’s Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn and Bronx boroughs for a flat rate of $5.