Well, we know that the Torah explicitly prohibited human sacrifice, so that is certainly out.
I wrote a paper a long time ago on the book of Leviticus. It is pretty comprehensive in addressing the issue, notably in the 17th chapter.
The idea of Jewish sacrifice was called Qorbanot. There's an entire section in the Talmud devoted to this subject.
There are three basic concepts underlying qorbanot. The first the aspect of giving. A qorban requires the renunciation of something that belongs to the person making the offering. Thus, sacrifices are made from domestic animals, not wild animals (because wild animals do not belong to anyone). Likewise, offerings of food are ordinarily in the form of flour or meal, which requires substantial work to prepare.
Another important concept is the element of substitution. The idea is that the thing being offered is a substitute for the person making the offering, and the things that are done to the offering are things that should have been done to the person offering. The offering is in some sense "punished" in place of the offerer
Hope this helps,