For the longest time ever, I thought “Halal Food” referred to the food served in the food carts with rice, lettuce, chicken, lamb, white and barbeque sauce. It was not until a friend explained that “halal”, in Arabic,  means permissible and that Halal meat is meat that has been slaughtered according to Islamic law, as laid out in the Qu’ran until I realized the true meaning. This particular type of slaughter is called dhabiha.

It’s a very specific method of killing animals for food, one that also involves draining all the blood and ensuring that no live animals ever see another animal slaughtered. According to the Muslims in Dietetics and Nutrition, a member group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Halal food can never contain pork or pork products, or any alcohol. Rasheed Ahmed, founder and president of the Muslim Consumer Group, which both certifies Halal food and educates Muslims about different foods’ Halal status, says that to be truly Halal, how the animals are raised is taken into account. Animals must be fed vegetarian diets, which means that many chickens and cows raised on U.S. farms don’t qualify. Halal animals also can’t be treated with antibiotics or growth hormones, since the hormones may contain pork-based ingredients.

Halal animals must be slaughtered by a Muslim, who says a blessing, and by hand, not by machine. Once killed, the animal’s blood must drain completely, since Muslims who eat Halal do not consume the fresh blood of animals.

After doing this research, a question that raises is, “Are all carts that are considered ‘Halal carts’ actually halal?”