Food & Wine Editor
Milwaukee's Conundrum

Why can't meat from a Muslim butcher be kosher? OU explains.

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Eyad Suleiman, a Muslim Israeli living in Milwaukee, Wis., plans to open a kosher and halal meat plant for religious clientele, but getting kosher certification won’t be easy.

Last month The Journal Times, the daily newspaper for Racine County in southeastern Wisconsin ran a story on Suleiman and his proposed meat plant. The article claims that Suleiman is “looking for a rabbi to give whatever clearance is required by Judaism,” but getting kosher certification isn’t as simple as having a rabbi sign a document.

“If it’s not coming from a Jewish shochet [certified kosher butcher] it can’t be considered kosher. That’s the law,” Rabbi Moshe Elefant, the Chief Operating Officer of Orthodox Union’s the Kashruth Department said, adding that Jews can and do operate facilities that are certified both halal and Kosher.

Suleiman told The Journal Times that his meat plant would follow the Muslim dhabiha laws of saying a prayer in the name of God prior to slaughtering the animal. Additionally he said he would make sure the knife is never seen by the animal so it is not in distress, and perform the appropriate cut to the jugular vein so the animal does not experience much pain, precautions that, when done properly, fulfill some of the halachot (Jewish laws) of shechita, but not all.

While meat from a non-Jewish source cannot be kosher, a shochet can sell certified halal meat. The dhabiha law to pray in the name of God does not require that the prayer be said in Arabic or mention Allah, and most shochets customarily bless the animal with a Hebrew prayer that includes God.

According to Robin Shulman, author of "Eat The City," a book about the history of New York's food industry, one of the big differences between kosher and halal meat has to do with the knives used to slaughter the animal. In New York, Shulman wrote, some halal places allow Jewish shochets to bring in their own knives for a kosher kill.

If Suleiman intends to acquire OU certification for his meat plant, he will need to hire shochets in order to sell kosher meat.

Suleiman's idea to market to both Jews and Muslims reflects more progressive attitudes regarding cooperation and teamwork between Muslims and Jews. In 2011 when Holland's government banned kosher and halal slaughtering in favor of stunning the animals, Jews and Muslims lobbied together to fight the ban.

Suleiman was not reachable for comment.

editor@jewishweek.org  |  @JewishWeekFW

Last Update:

12/16/2013 - 15:59


I'd like bring attention to a glaring misrepresentation stated in your July 9 article about halal certification (Milwaukee's Kosher Conundrum: Why can't meat from a Muslim butcher be kosher? OU explains).

The article states that ‘Jews can and do operate facilities that are certified both halal and kosher’ implying that the same carcass is certified both halal and kosher. Of course this cannot be possible. If it is happening, the facility is committing fraud and if it is in a state that has passed a Halal Food Law, I expect they will be prosecuted for it. To produce halal certified meat, a Muslim must perform the slaughter. So while the facility can employ Muslim slaughtermen if they wish to produce halal certified product, it must be segregated from any other product in the facility, and any kosher carcasses produced cannot be halal certified. Furthermore no halal consumer will accept kosher slaughter as being halal certified. They may choose to eat kosher product but they do not expect kosher to be certified halal. Nor will the hind quarter of a kosher kill (which is generally not considered kosher) be certified halal by any reputable halal certifying agency.

The article further states that a shochet can sell certified halal meat and that most schochets bless the animal with a Hebrew prayer that includes God. Of course, anyone can sell anything, even if it is misrepresented as long as they get away with it. But a kosher slaughter requiring a Rabbi to perform the slaughter does not qualify the carcass as dhabiha. Furthermore, though the article states that most schochets customarily offer a Hebrew prayer that includes God, it is not done on every animal just prior to slaughter as is required by dhabiha law. Actually, according to my understating, verified by a Jewish professor, Jews are not supposed to take God’s name in vain, hence they write G-D instead of GOD. Also, according to a Rabbi a slaughter house is a dirty place and it would be less likely they would mention God's name there.

It appears the author did not consult a single Muslim scholar, halal certifying agency or halal butcher for this article. That is a shame. Cooperation among people requires an open exchange of the viewpoints, not an imposition of one viewpoint on all.

We trust this clarifies the misrepresentations in the original article. Thank you for bringing these misrepresentations to light. Halal consumers need to be careful when they purchase halal certified meat. They need to know the halal certification is authentic and not applied to unqualified products.

The Shochet does not "bless" the animal before slaughter. Rather the Shochet makes a Bracha -- a blessing to G-d attesting to G-d's commandment regarding the laws of kosher slaughter.

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