The two major religious slaughter practices that we are familiar with are halal and kosher belonging to the Islamic and Jewish laws respectively. Another popular practice that’s easily accessible is the meat butchered using meat processing equipment. The effect of each of these practices on the quality of meat is majorly influenced by the technique used.
What they all have in common?
All the three ways of butchering require the handling of animals in a humane and compassionate manner so as to minimise the risk of injuries and needless trauma to the animal. The halal, kosher and guidelines issued by the USDA require the animal that is to be slaughtered to be free of injuries, blemishes and diseases. The USDA conducts an examination of all animals prior to slaughtering, ensuring the diseased animal is slaughtered separately. A healthy animal is preferred in all cases.
Let’s look at these techniques more closely.
The meat is said to be halal if the animal is struck with one pass of an extremely sharp blade (free of nicks) across the throat of the animal severing the carotid arteries, jugular vein and trachea. It is essential the blade doesn’t hack off or touch the spinal cord. The animal is allowed to bleed completely where the heart helps rid the blood off the body. The intent behind the bleeding is to remove the blood quickly from the body as blood is an ideal medium for the growth of microbes. This makes the halal meat clean and hygienic for consumption, increasing the shelf-life, though freshly cut is always of the superior quality and taste. It is also crucial to take into account how animals are raised. Animals must be fed vegetarian diets, and cannot be treated with antibiotics or growth hormones for the meat to be truly halal.
There isn’t much difference between the halal and kosher practices, technique-wise.
The kosher-certified meat involves the animal being slaughtered using a sharp, flawless knife severing the trachea and esophagus. At the same time, the carotid arteries, which are the primary supplier of blood to the brain, are severed.
The blood gushes out of the body making certain the meat is free of the blood, which like said earlier if left in the meat, encourages growth of bacteria. The meat is then carefully inspected for any lesions on the internal organs and proceeded to further butchering if found none.
Slaughter using Machines
Most countries have legislation requiring that animals are rendered unconscious (stunned) by a humane method prior to bleeding. Stunning is done by various methods- direct blow to skull using a club or poleaxe, electrical stunning using high frequency but low voltage, carbon dioxide stunning, using captive-bolt pistols or free bullet fired from a pistol. The type of stunning method used to immobilize animals during the slaughter process can affect meat quality either through inducing short-term pre-slaughter stress or it can affect blood removal upon exsanguination.
Stress immediately prior to slaughter, causes stored glycogen (sugar) to be released into the bloodstream, causing the muscles to produce lactic acid which results in high acidity causing partial breakdown of the muscle structure rendering a pale, soft and exudative meat.
Hemorrhage is another consequence of stunning, in major muscles and surrounding tissues resulting in a decrease in the quantity (trimming) and quality of meat products.
Electrical water bath stunning of broilers has the most detrimental effect with respect to muscle hemorrhaging and when used with currents that induce cardiac arrest leads to inadequate bleeding.
Following Stunning, the carcass is allowed to bleed, scalded (in case of poultry and pigs for dehairing), skinned, eviscerated, splitted and dressed using suitable equipment and machines, ready for refrigeration and transportation of carcasses and meat.
To sum it up, Pre-slaughter stress, inadequate severing of the artery or vein used for exsanguination, extended time between stunning and exsanguination, and improper suspension of the carcass during exsanguination can restrict the volume of blood removed, all of which has a considerable effect on the quality of meat.