Kosher/halal meats on a huge scale?
July 29, 2006 12:12 AM   Subscribe

How is it that animals are slaughtered in manners either kosher or halal on an industrial scale to feed the billions of adherents?

It seems to me that these practices which define the particular and careful ways in which an animal must be killed, and in some cases that the animal must be blessed prior to the killing (halal) might fly in the face of the massive concern of scale when you're talking about billions of people worldwide that are compelled to live accordingly. What sort of considerations - e.g. religious figures blessing factories, etc, something that nature - go into making this happen?
posted by xmutex to Religion & Philosophy (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Whole truckload of information here from one of the primary organizations that certify kosher in the U.S.
posted by frogan at 12:27 AM on July 29, 2006

This page even has videos of the process.
posted by frogan at 12:28 AM on July 29, 2006

A long and scripture-laden article on industrial halal slaughter.

An article on a major Canadian firm that recently introduced a line of halal products.

That said, I think it is still fairly common for people who keep strict halal to go to a small butcher shop.
posted by anjamu at 12:41 AM on July 29, 2006

I guess they pretty much put on some display of kosher doing and then go on the usual industrial scale ; if they ask just say it was kosher.
posted by elpapacito at 2:43 AM on July 29, 2006

"I guess they pretty much put on some display of kosher doing and then go on the usual industrial scale ; if they ask just say it was kosher."
posted by elpapacito at 5:43 AM EST on July 29

That is patently not true, in my experience. Indeed, the rabbinic authorities anywhere charged with certifying kosher take the responsibility seriously, as do the food producers. More even than they take to heart modern sanitary regulations, both sides of a religious certification such as kosher keep the spirit of the thing, and work to see that the proscriptions are accurately followed, even if it cuts into profits immediately. As Hebrew National points out, they "answer to a Higher Authority."
posted by paulsc at 4:19 AM on July 29, 2006

The majority of the people in the world don't eat anything like as much meat as we do.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 4:50 AM on July 29, 2006

Slight derail, but it's worth mentioning that kosher covers a lot more than the slaughtering process.

There was a news story a few years back in this part of the world where the kosher certification rabbis were going to pull their approval on something (corn syrup, I think?) because the railroad tank cars transporting it weren't being cleaned properly. Since the ingredient was used in all sorts of other products down the line, the agribusiness company could have lost certification for a big chunk of their product line. They changed their process. Result: cleaner food transport and better food products for everyone.

(This is from memory--wish I could find the article.)
posted by gimonca at 7:43 AM on July 29, 2006

1.3 billion Muslims, 14 million Jews -- there aren't billions worldwide eating halal and kosher.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 8:04 AM on July 29, 2006

Yeah, what SCDB said. I managed to dredge up a nice data set that gives per capita meat consumption up to 2002. According to this, the U.S. consumed about 125 kilograms of meat per person in 2002; in comparison, Indonesia, often called the most populous Muslim country in the world, only consumed 8.3 kilos. Even Kuwait, the most carnivorous Muslim nation I could find, still only consumed half of the meat the U.S. did, per capita.

The point here is that in much of the world, people get their meat from a local butcher, not from a factory, and it's much easier to envision a local butcher keeping kosher/halal than it is a factory.
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:04 AM on July 29, 2006

Is it a derail to ask about the entire life cycle of a food product that can be certified halal or kosher? I have been wondering if animals raised in cruel conditions, fed animal protein, and then slaughtered and handled in conditions described as violating basic human rights would get certified as halal or kosher. I would prefer to buy food with known provenance, even though I am not religious, and buying halal or kosher food would seem to help with that -- if I could find documentation detailing the conditions under which the animals have to be raised, and not just the conditions under which they have to be slaughtered.
posted by bleary at 8:10 AM on July 29, 2006

The comments above show how the certifiers have worked within (and in some cases managed to change) the factory food industry.

More importantly, it's worth noting that the industrialization of our food supply is an abberation not seen in much of the world. The majority of people still get bulk of their food from local, small-scale sources. In the US and other parts of the western world, that ability has been largely taken from us by laws (passed in the name of "food safety") that put our food in the hands of megacorporations.

In Georgia, for example, it is virtually impossible for small farmers who raise animals for meat and dairy in a careing, sustainable way to sell their products to the consumer. The laws require processing at certain facilities, but those facilities refuse to deal with the little guy. The result is a black market in meat and dairy, where farmers risk jail time to sell quality food.

I bring all this up to show that many of the billions of people requireing kosher and halal food do not get it from industrial-scale sources. They can get it from their neighbors.

Sites to help you get local non-industrial food:,,
posted by ewagoner at 8:33 AM on July 29, 2006

Something else sort of obvious (to me) to consider: not all Muslims eat halal meat; and not all Jews eat Kosher meat. Not all can afford to, or have it easily accessible.
posted by weirdoactor at 8:36 AM on July 29, 2006

Incidentally, paulsc, Hebrew National is *not* considered up to standard by most Orthodox Jews; for years they didn't have a major national Kosher certification (e.g. OU or OK or Chaf-K), and the certification they have now is one of the more lenient ones (triangle K). (See article here, though my knowledge of this is based on firsthand experience.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 10:02 AM on July 29, 2006

More on-topic: though I'm not sure the "problem" you're asking about applies that much in the case of kosher meat (there aren't really all that many people who keep kosher, in the big picture), being a ritual slaughter (shochet) is a relatively common profession among Orthodox Jews. I know at least two men who work as shochets, and I live in a large city (Baltimore). Neither of them work in Baltimore, though--they spend the week at the kosher meat processing plant (or whatever the right term is) in Pennsylvania or upstate NY and come home on the weekends to be with their families. It's actually a rather well-paying profession (due to the significant amount of knowledge required)...which is one of the reasons kosher meat is so much more expensive.
posted by needs more cowbell at 12:05 PM on July 29, 2006

Johhny Assay do those meat consumption statistics define meat as pigs, cows + birds or do they include fish + other seafood as well? I would assume the former but the definition is unclear and there are no obvious categories on that site for fish/seafood.
posted by Skorgu at 1:05 PM on July 29, 2006

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