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Before you sink your teeth into the next Zabiha slaughtered meat product, ask yourself: is it Halal?

This is a question most Muslims don't think to ask, according to Ahmad Sakr, professor emeritus of Food Science and author of "Understanding Halal Food" and "A Muslim Guide to Food Ingredients" in an interview with Sound Vision from his California home.

The issue of Halal meat has been a bone of contention amongst North American Muslim communities.

Some Muslims argue that the meat of the Jews and Christians is Halal for Muslims. Others say the meat must be slaughtered according to Islamic rites for it to be fit for Muslim consumption.

Both groups can find support from legal opinions given by Islamic scholars.

But what's often ignored is that regardless of whether you choose to eat Zabiha or not, the meat of the animal itself may not be Halal, says Sakr.


ZabihaWith regards to meat that is not slaughtered according to Islamic rites, Sakr says it is not Halal because of the effect electric shock on blood drainage.

He explains that in regular meat slaughterhouses, animals are brought into an alley and given an electric shock to the head to make them unconscious.

The animal's legs are then tied up and it is hung upside down. A knife is put to its neck,and then it is slaughtered. The animal is then temporarily left alone to allow the blood to drain from its body. From there, the meat is processed.

But using electric shock, explains Sakr, means that all of the animal's blood does not leave its body, because electric shock affects the central nervous system.

On the contrary, if an animal is slaughtered in accordance with Islamic guidelines, the central nervous system works properly, and all of the animal's blood comes out.

Remaining blood in the animal is a source of fermentation and destruction of meat quality. This means bacteria can grow easily on the meat.

From an Islamic perspective, Sakr says it is Haram to eat meat containing blood, as it is clearly stated in the Quran that Muslims cannot consume blood.


"Halal is Halal if the following conditions are taken into consideration," explains Sakr.

The first is that the animal is itself is Halal. That means no pork, for instance.

The second, is that the food the animal consumes does not contain any blood or meat. Sakr explains that the animal has to be herbivorous to be Halal, and adds that an animal becomes Haram if it consumes blood and /or meat.

"Islam dictates that if an animal has received meat and/or blood while it was Halal, it becomes Haram and in order to become Halal you have to put that animal in a quarantine area for 40 days before you slaughter it to make it Halal," says Sakr.

If this is not respected, "that animal will contain the disease called Mad Cow Disease," he says. (You can read more about mad cow disease at its official site at http://www.mad-cow.org/)

The third condition Sakr lists for an animal to be Halal is that it should not be given any hormones.

In the meat industry, he says beef is given female sex hormones. This is meant to increase the weight of the animal in a short period of time.

The effect of consuming an animal with injected female hormones is a reduction in the masculine appearance of boys and men. It also reduces sexual appetite, explains Sakr, adding that this of course would not happen by eating just one meal containing meat. Rather, it can result when people are consuming meat daily, and Sakr mentioned "KFC and and MacDonald's" as two examples.

But eaters of Zabiha meat should not get on a high horse either: even if an animal is slaughtered in the Islamic manner, it will still contain these hormones.


Sakr points out that the meat industry also puts the preservatives nitrite or nitrate in meat. These react with the amino group of amino acids of the meat or protein to produce nitroso-amine. This is red pigment.

This results in meat still looking red in its color, as if it is fresh, even if it has been on the shelf for one or two weeks. While this may be good for industry, it causes cancer.

Animal food containing meat and blood, as well as dangerous hormones and preservatives lead Sakr to conclude one thing.

"If that animal has been fed all of the above, then it is no longer Halal, even if a Muslim goes to the farm and slaughters the animal in the name of Allah, [it] does not make the animal Halal."


In February 1994, the United States Food and Drug Administration (USDA) approved the use of another hormone for cows-estrogen. This was used to increase milk bladder size and milk excretion resulting in greater production of milk in a shorter period of time.

Estrogen can cause cancer of the breast and other cancers in general.

This is particularly frightening when we consider that many people drink milk daily, and consume its byproducts like milk, cheese and cookies.

While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) demanded that farms put the label EST on milk cartons if they use estrogen on cows, the milk industry convinced the FDA to forego putting this label. That means you don't know if the milk you drink contains estrogen or not.


The only viable solution, according to Sakr, is to establish farms which will be run by Muslims who will raise animals feeding them only plants, no hormones, preservatives or meat and blood.

He looks to the next generation of Muslims in North America to do that, though. Sakr points out that "most of the immigrant Muslims who came to Canada and the United States are highly educated and their impression about a farmer in their old countries, [is] that he is poor and uneducated, while we are educated."

In contrast, Sakr notes that in Canada and the US, Americans and Canadians may have a Ph.D. in animal sciences, for instance, but may still do farm work and not consider a lower class job.


Another option is simply eating a vegetable-based diet, as opposed to a meat based one. While Islam has not forbidden meat eating, it also has not made it a religious requirement to consume meat on a daily basis. Moderation in eating, as is the case with other aspects of life, is the key, according to Islam.

By opting for a more vegetable-based diet, this will reduce the meat intake of individuals, and lessen the amount of hormones and other dangerous chemicals ingested indirectly because of the meat.

Current science and health research has also found eating a vegetarian diet can be healthier for you.


Meat, dairy products and eggs that are from animals which have been fed with organic food is also an option for those who want to keep eating meat.

Organic livestock are not given antibiotics or hormones. They are given products that have been derived from natural sources.

While organic foods may be more expensive than meat bought at the supermarket, the fact that it's free of cancer-causing ingredients is well worth the cost if you want to maintain your meat-eating.

According to the Organic Farming Research Foundation based in Santa Cruz, California, about one percent of the US food supply is grown using organic methods. In 1996, this represented over $3.5 billion in retail sales.

Organic foods can be bought at natural foods stores, the health food sections and produce departments of supermarkets and at farmers' markets.

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Your Comments

dalina, san diego, CA, USA - wrote on 4/2/2012 4:22:24 AM
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Comment: I buy Halal meat at local "middle eastern" markets. The meat is fresher, so much healthier and not as expensive as "organic grass fed" packaged meat at general grocery stores. I also learned from your article here why it seems to not get spoiled as quickly as as the meat from the general US meat industry meat. Thanks for the information!

Alice, Naperville - wrote on 3/16/2012 9:01:00 AM
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Comment: I saw chickens being killed according to the Jewish law. It was a hot day and the chickens were put in a cart and left in the heat until all the chickens were killed. I think chickens and other animals need to be kept cold after killing. There is some information on cancer and the gas produced by animals that are aged or hung.

ISsa Azuriah , Durham - wrote on 11/15/2011 3:11:04 PM
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Comment: Whole foods market in north Carolina carries locally raised halal beef chicken and goat as well as halal lamb from new Zealand.all of the dairy not just certified organic is hOrmone/antibiotic free. Also their 365 label of food is price compt At surrounding competitors to keep the $ evening priced. I also happen to work at the durham location and am an advocate for purity of my body mind and soul as well as my food..GMO crops hormones etc are definatly makhroo...questionable. As they are also not good for the animal which gets passed onto us destroying our immune system. Time for the Muslims to be Mumin putting Islam into action it's not just a name or a culture it's a way of life !

razi, sauga - wrote on 1/11/2011 12:52:58 PM
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Comment: hormoned animals are haram ? jazakAllah for the info. RE fastfood article: watch out for contamination; e.g. subway veggies are contaminated w/ meat grease, if they use same gloves to pick them up after handling meat (perhaps for the order before you).

farooque nizami, Mumbai - wrote on 12/26/2010 9:20:41 AM
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Comment: a person wants to eat beef attached with bones can he eat alongwith bones. can a muslim eat chewing bones with teeth.

farooque nizami, Mumbai - wrote on 12/26/2010 9:19:38 AM
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Comment: a person wants to eat beef attached with bones can he eat alongwith bones. can a muslim eat chewing bones with teeth.

colleen, saint john - wrote on 1/2/2010 11:01:30 PM
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Comment: hi ,i am not muslium but i found this article very interesting.i think its important that people know more about the things that are being put into food .i was surprised to find out the very poor way that food is being perpared .i would like to know of some places to buy halal meat,not for the religious reasons but simply that its much more healthier.

Sue Rabinovich, New Jersey - wrote on 5/18/2005 7:05:03 AM
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Comment: Great article. I dont think the answer is in becoming vegetarian. We need the protein...and I like the taste of meat :)

Ayman, Toronto - wrote on 3/13/2005 11:21:26 PM
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Comment: great article, I advice every muslim and non muslim though to read it...

farrah, UK - wrote on 11/27/2004 10:22:29 AM
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Comment: Ive read about this topic before, the article was put together very well, maybe the author should write a book!!. Although I think it makes one assume that eating no poultry or being a vegetarian is healthy ! - which is not the case for someone who is not fit and healthy - considering protien is very important for those who dont want to eat nuts and lentils which also contain carbs and fats or those that have special diets, with less intake of sugar or carbs. Btw, does anyone know of a UK supplier of organic poultry and meat?

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