There are specific dietary guidelines that are adhered to by followers of both the Jewish and Muslim faiths. Foods that meet these guidelines are known as kosher and halal, respectively. Many differences exist between the rules for the two types of food, though there also are some similarities. Both kosher and halal laws state that blood and pigs cannot be consumed. Kosher rules, however, are far more restrictive about the types of animals and methods of preparation that are used.
One important thing to understand about the differences between kosher and halal foods is that there are differences in opinion about what each diet actually entails. These variations come from scholarly interpretations of the original religious texts that define the laws. Some differences relax the strict laws, adjusting them for modern production realities that make the origin and composition of some foods nearly impossible to trace. There also are communities where the rules are far stricter than those of the traditional diet. Most often, the differences arise in certain geographical regions or in groups that follow a specific leader within the faith.
Muslims who follow a halal diet are able to eat a wider selection of meats than Jews who follow a kosher diet. In a halal diet, nearly all meats except pork and pork byproducts are permitted, although it should be noted that some variations exist that restrict the eating of carnivorous animals. A kosher diet forbids several animals, including pigs, eagles, owls, catfish and rabbits. One major difference between kosher and halal rules is that all shellfish are considered non-kosher and cannot be eaten, while all animals that live in the water are specifically permitted under halal guidelines.
Another difference between kosher and halal foods comes from how kosher foods must be prepared. Meat and dairy are not allowed to mix, be handled with the same tools or eaten with the same utensils. Some types of kosher food also must be prepared by a practicing Jew to be considered kosher. Halal foods have similar regulations, but they are primarily centered on the slaughtering and butchering of animals.
Both kosher and halal rules state that animals need to be slaughtered in a specific way to be permissible. The rules are nearly identical, and both methods end with the meat being consecrated with the name of God. As similar as the methods of slaughter are, however, kosher and halal meats are not readily interchangeable, because the name of God used over the meat is not the same. In Islam, however, kosher meat can be permissible to eat if a Muslim is traveling or eating in a Jewish household.