Halal poultry is meat from birds that have been raised, slaughtered, and prepared in accordance with Islamic dietary laws. These laws limit how birds that are to be eaten may be raised and fed. They also govern the specific practices employed at the time the birds are slaughtered. The handling of the carcasses of halal poultry is also regulated by Islamic law and custom.
Modern Islamic dietary law is descended from, and shares many standards with, Jewish dietary law. A key element of all Islamic law, including dietary law, is the categorization of certain activities as haram, which means forbidden, or halal, meaning permitted. Islam requires that meats come only from certain birds and animals and also dictates how animals are to be cared for and slaughtered.
Islamic law dictates that any animal destined for human consumption should be raised in humane conditions. Specific interpretations of this dictate vary, but most exclude factory-raised birds. Birds meant to be eaten cannot be fed anything that is made from or with the flesh of other birds if they are to be considered halal.
When birds are to be slaughtered for halal poultry, they must be killed quickly, with a single cut across the throat. This cut should leave the spine intact but should cut the jugular vein, the carotid artery, and the windpipe. The intent of this practice is to minimize the amount of pain caused to the bird being slaughtered.
Some hold that a religious invocation should be made at the time of slaughter and that the slaughter should be conducted only by a Muslim. This is not, however, a universally-held belief among Muslims. Poultry that has been slaughtered in accordance with Jewish law, and which is kosher, is considered halal poultry by those who hold to a looser interpretation of the law.
The preparation of poultry after slaughter is also governed by Islamic dietary law. All birds destined to be halal poultry must be drained completely of blood. The consumption of blood is strictly haram.
Many organizations certify poultry as halal, but the specific standards used vary widely. Some insist on a strict interpretation of texts governing dietary habits. Others interpret the Koran more broadly, and adhere to the letter of the law but not to the most stringent possible interpretation of the spirit of the law. A concerned consumer can generally locate information on each group that certifies halal poultry to make sure that the standards used by that group line up with his or her views.