Is Wagyu (Beef) Halal?

While there is an absence of dalil to support the claim that cows fed with alcohol make their meat haram, it is also not ‘clearly’ halal. There are far more supporting arguments are pointing towards authentic Wagyu being makruh. Halal Certification for Wagyu is that the cows are not fed with alcohol prior to slaughtering (according to Islamic Rites).

I love meeting owners of businesses who are so passionate about their food. With passion also comes a lot of knowledge on their subject matter. So, when I met butchery owners Soph and Renga, I asked the questions that they have probably received countless times in their line of business – Is wagyu really halal?

We’ve also received this question on our DMs and as replies to our weekly newsletters, so I wanted to be sure to include responses from muslim butchers too! (Note: Links to references are listed at the bottom of this article). So, let’s get into it.

What is wagyu meat?

When you think Wagyu, I want you to think Premium.

Think about cows in Japan that are given the most premium treatment that their breeders could possibly give them. The cows eat the best grains and fresh green grass. They get to roam in the cool pastures near the mountains so that they are stress-free (the kind of pastures that could make even you stress-free). Their breeders are so concerned with the comfort of their cows that even the temperature of the environment is being monitored, and the cows are being moved if it so happens that the temperatures are not so favourable.

These are the cows that will eventually give you Wagyu Meat.

Wagyu literally means the beef from a Japanese Cattle. What sets wagyu apart from other types of beef is its white marbling texture.

Essentially, the better the cow is treated, the better will be the quality of the Wagyu meat, producing meats of a higher grade. Refer to the guide below for an idea of how different these cuts of meats can be!

Credits: Pinterest The higher the grade of Wagyu, the better is the taste. Renga, from The Meatery also explained to me that not all Wagyu is of ‘great’ quality. “For a meat to be labelled as Wagyu, only a certain percentage of marbling is required, which might not be a high enough percentage to give you that melt-in-your-mouth texture” I inferred from there that perhaps, when we visit a restaurant that serves up Wagyu at a more affordable price, there is a high chance that it might not be a high grade Wagyu. (I also felt a little cheated when I learnt this, boohoo) Here’s a video on why Wagyu is expensive. [youtube=://] So, what’s the halal concern surrounding wagyu? The main issue with regards to the halal-ness of Wagyu points to what the cattle is being fed in its lifetime in order to achieve the marbling in its meat as earlier described. Marbling in Wagyu beef is possible with the existence of Intramuscular Fat, or IMF, which essentially are fat between the muscles of the cows – which eventually becomes the meat that we eat. Hence, the cow’s diet heavily influences the marbling of the meat. That said, real authentic Wagyu are from cattle which are fed alcoholic beverages because the consumption of alcohol increases their IMF, which later translate to a higher grade Wagyu because of greater marbling. This then begs the question – is Wagyu then halal? There are 2 main discussions on this that I have come across in my 7 years in the halal industry – both have their merits, and to a certain extent, I do agree with both of them even though their line of arguments boils down to different conclusions. (1) Hukum Halal/Haram befalls the human and not the cows. A very senior member of a team of halal auditors explained this to me in my first year on the job as a desktop auditor for international halal certifications. I have to put this discussion in the context of where I learnt it because the internet at the moment has a very limited supply of searchable halal knowledge on top of information – and hence I couldn’t find references for this line of argument. As I learnt it from a team of halal auditors (made of several Ustaz and food scientists), the Hukum of Halal/Haram (directly translated: The legislation what is allowed or not allowed in Islam) befalls the human and not animals. One of the requirements to be muslim (aka to be able to accept Islam) is Aql – ie. a sound mind or the ability to think for themselves. Animals do not have aql and behave in the form of their fitrah (naturally occurring). Therefore, they cannot be subjected to Islamic Halal/Haram legislation like humans. This means that what the cattle eat or drink do not matter for its meat to be halal for muslim consumption. The Halal/Haram legislation for Wagyu therefore starts at the condition of the animal and its method of slaughter – ie. The animal has to be healthy, free of diseases and it has to be slaughtered in accordance to Islamic rites – that’s all. The rest don’t matter. That said – this is not a widely accepted line of argument. Halal Certification of Wagyu conventionally follows the second line of argument, as per below. PS: As the world is constantly creating new things (and new food) these discussions in the office happen very frequently – what makes a good discussion is often between an expert in food and an expert in Islamic Jurispudence. (fyi, I’m the food expert. haha!) (2) It is makruh to eat Wagyu from cattle fed with alcohol For this, I refer to articles from Ustaz Kamal, and from this write up on halal from the school of Hanafi, point 10. Ustaz Kamal argues the following points in summary (I encourage you to read his entire article):
  1. Wagyu is Jallalah

    This line of argument refers to alcohol as ‘filth’, and animals that have been fed with filth (Jallalah). Jallalah specifically refers to animals that have been fed with filth so often that the character of their meat changes due to its feeding habits (Ustaz Kamal, 2015). This is exactly what describes the marbling of Wagyu meat. For the scholars who consider alcohol in its physical form to be filthy, then Wagyu beef is Jallalah, therefore eating Wagyu beef would only be makruh or discouraged. (Narrated by Ibn Umar rhuma: “The Prophet pbuh forbids from eating Jallalah and its milk.” (Hadith narrated by Abu Daud, Tirmizhi, Ibn Majah and Al Baihaqi. Sheikh Albani grades this hadith as Sahih.))
  2. It is immoral and unethical to feed animals with alcohol.

    It was narrated by Abdullah ibn Umar that the Prophet pbuh said: Allah curses alcohol, its drinker, its server, its seller, its buyer, its presser, the one for whom it is pressed for, the one who conveys it, and the one to whom it is conveyed to. (Narrated by Abu Daud in his Sunan ) This hadith indicates sternly that anyone who has a direct dealing with alcohol will be cursed by Allah. Muslims are forbidden from dealing with alcohol as it affects the mind, makes him lose control and inhibits its capacity to think. It is also a known fact that alcohol consumption also damages human organs. Feeding animals with alcohol also subjects them to the same damage to their organs and can therefore be considered animal abuse. Eating wagyu beef would inculcate the feeding of animals with alcohol and thus propagate the abuse of animals. (Ustaz Kamal, 2015)

Ustaz Kamal further concludes that Sad Az zara’i (closing the doors towards evil) is the better approach when dealing with this issue of consuming the meat of cattle that have been fed alcohol, due to the 2 points mentioned above.

What does halal certified wagyu mean then?

While there is an absence of dalil to support the claim that cows fed with alcohol make their meat haram, it is also not ‘clearly’ halal. There are far more supporting arguments are pointing towards authentic Wagyu (from cattle fed with alcohol) being makruh.

Therefore, the current standard for Halal Certification for Wagyu is that the cattle are not fed with alcohol prior to slaughtering (according to Islamic Rites). Marbling for Halal Certified Wagyu is therefore achieved through a different diet for the cattle that does not include alcohol. I am also happy to report that muslim Butchers Renga and Soph from The Meatery confirmed this information about the Halal Certified Wagyu that they bring into Singapore.

I hope this clarifies Wagyu for you. Differing opinions are welcome in the comment section. Please remember to be respectful while exchanging your views.

Till next article,

Jumaiyah M.

References for this article:









#HalalQnA: On Japanese Shoyu and marketing as a halal brand.

Occasionally, we receive messages from our followers and newsletter subscribers asking for advice on their particular situation that is associated with halal. Read more on one of the questions we received in our inbox last month that is regarding marketing as a Halal Japanese food brand.

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