By Omer Ibrahim
Halal meat is meat that has been slaughtered according to Islamic law, in which the animal is killed by a transverse cut to the throat, rather than by the usual European method of rendering the animal unconscious by stunning and then killing it by bleeding.
With the Muslim Holy month of Ramadan underway, the French food industry is paying special attention to the growing market of products known as “halal,” a designation for food produced according to the rules of Islamic law.
Halal retailers earn about one third of their annual revenue during the month of Ramadan. Overall, the quickly expanding industry pulls in an estimated 5 billion Euros worldwide, according to Solis, an ethnic studies consultancy firm. In France, supermarkets sold roughly 130 million worth of halal products last year. That number is expected to reach 140 million Euros in 2011, according to the consultancy firm Nielsen.
Halal products only began appearing in French supermarkets a few years ago. Specialized brands like Isla Délice and Reghalal were later joined by large French food industry players like Fleury Michon and Panzani. The supermarket chain Casino launched its own range of halal products under the umbrella brand Wassila. And Carrefour, France’s top food retailer sells approximately 50 of its own halal products as well. Carrefour’s halal foods have been approved by the Grande Mosquée de Paris (the Great Mosque of Paris). But for many consumers, questions remain about halal certification.
Concerns were heightened recently by a documentary aired by the television network Canal +, which described “some practices that could be described as fraudulent. With Ramadan now into its second week there has been much debate this month in France about the growth of halal food consumption. According to Iremam (the French Institute of Research on Arab and Muslim civilizations) there are over 5 million Muslims in France and the halal market is four times more valuable than the market for organic food.
Halal products in Russia
Halal products volume in Russia is also growing 30-40 percent annually, the Halal Standard Committee at the Tatarstan Islamic High Council said based on research outcomes. Head of the Russian Consumer Rights Protection Union Mikhail Anshakov believes most Halal products are consumed by Moscow residents who have no relation to Islam, Fakty weekly reports recently.
“The demand for food products manufactured under control of any religious community is on the rise because consumers become more careful in selecting their food. Halal products are well-known as high quality food. For instance, they use minimum chemical additives or by-products and, thus, consumers have more trust in them,” he believes
According to the newspaper report, the current food trends in Europe also show that Europeans increasingly trade off traditional food for Halal products.
Halal products in USA
Faisal Masood, founder of the American Muslim Consumer Conference, relates American Muslims hold 170 billion dollars in spending power. It is an amount that is expected to grow exponentially as indigenous Muslims grow and immigrant Muslims raise their second and third generations in America.
As numbers grow, Muslims continue to maintain purchasing habits that align with their Islamic faith. Muslims want to be able to look at a product and see a recognizable halal logo. There is an increasing demand for products that are inclusive.
The Pure Halal Center based in Philadelphia, – a halal certification company, is answering those needs by specializing in training, product development and community outreach. The Pure Halal Center (PHC) examines the needs of the American Muslim consumer and then works with manufacturers, universities, hospitals and other institutions to offer halal products. PHC recognizes that the supply for halal is not meeting the demand.
For Muslims living in Philadelphia, shopping halal is indeed getting easier. The Brown Family chain of Shoprite supermarkets currently offers a number of halal products and is working aggressively to increase shelf space for more certified halal products.
Customers can find brands such as NAC Foods’ Mimi brand spices, Club America’s Halal gummy bears and Tayy-ib brand lunch meat. Retailers are also offering IFANCA certified Halal brands such Crescent Foods, Saffron Road, and Toms’ of Maine products in many cities.
Historically, halal certified products have been hard to come by in the US from mainstream brands, but times are changing. The Pure Halal Center is in talks to certify products from Herr’s – the third largest snack food brand in America.
There is crossover appeal for halal products. Many non-Muslim consumers already choose to buy halal products, especially meat offerings. One reason is because halal is widely known to be held to higher standards of quality. This is particularly important at a time when more Americans are looking to adopt healthier eating habits.
Muslim Americans want to purchase the same products as every other American – they just want them to be unquestionably halal. The number of American Muslims is slated to reach 16 million by 2014 and American Muslim consumers are looking ahead. They are no longer satisfied with purchasing products after having no choice but to read a lengthy list of ingredients and spending way too much time in the supermarket.
Mainstream manufacturers and retailers have been slow to take notice. Studies show that while the opportunity for market share among other segments is dwindling, the American Muslim market remains virtually untapped.
The Mail newspaper recently revealed how most British supermarkets were secretly selling halal meat – especially lamb. The investigation found that most New Zealand lamb sold in major British supermarkets was halal, meaning that the prayer ‘In the name of Allah, who is the greatest’ is said at the time of slaughter. Stores selling lamb slaughtered according to Islamic law included Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, Asda, Morrison, Tesco and Sainsbury’s.
Last month, The Dutch Animal Rights Party pushed a bill through the lower house of the Dutch Parliament that would outlaw the slaughter of animals without stunning. The law, if ratified by the upper house of parliament, will in essence make locally raised and slaughtered kosher (and halal) meat illegal. A similar law was passed in New Zealand last year, and kosher slaughter is already outlawed in Iceland, Norway and Sweden.
The battle over the ethicality of kosher slaughter came to the United States recently, though fortunately with a better outcome. A Washington state appellate unanimously rejected a suit that would have made a law protecting religious slaughter unconstitutional, says the JTA.
Jewish groups in Europe are strategizing ways to combat the Dutch bill. In June, United Kingdom Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks told British paper The Telegraph: “We are worried that [this type of bill] could spread. There has been a non-stop campaign by animal welfare activists to have all forms of ritual slaughter banned. It has to be fought everywhere because if it’s lost anywhere it has a potential domino effect.