Meat is considered halal when it has been prepared in accordance with Islamic laws. Halal meats must meet strict guidelines about where the animal has come from, its condition and the way it is slaughtered and then butchered. There also are certain animals, such as pigs, that are never halal because they are considered unclean or unhealthy to eat. Some specific guidelines are that animals must be healthy when slaughtered and that the blood must be fully drained from the meat before it is butchered.
The word "halal" means "permitted" and is used in reference to foods that can be eaten by Muslims. The opposite of halal is "haram," meaning "harmful," although both terms can be applied to actions or practices other than food. There are various reasons for the various laws in the Quran that dictate what food is permitted and what is not. The use of meat is one of the most restrictive areas in Islamic law.
The first rule for halal meat is that it must come from a permitted animal. This means the meat must not come from swine, animals that died before they can be slaughtered, or animals that are sick and could make a person sick by eating the meat. All fish and water fowl are permitted. One part of this that is ignored by people leading a halal lifestyle says carnivores, animals with fangs and birds of prey are haram.
The second law concerning halal meats is the manner in which the animal is slaughtered. The Quran states that the animal must be slaughtered with a very sharp knife by cutting a specific area around its neck. At this time, Allah must be mentioned. This rule does not apply to fish and other sea-dwelling creatures.
The final step in creating halal meats is to hang the body of the animal to ensure that all blood drains from it. Consuming blood is strictly forbidden in Islam. Once this step has been completed, the halal meat can be butchered as normal and sold in stores.
It can be difficult for those attempting to buy halal meats from a store to know whether all of the prescribed rules have been followed. This is particularly complicated by another law saying that, if halal food touches haram food, then the once-halal food is now forbidden. To help ensure that halal meats actually are halal, several organizations around the world provide halal certifications for foods.