UK: Daily Mail halal reports fail to hit sales

– Published:  19 October, 2010

Media campaigns to stir up concern on halal production are failing to hit home with consumers at the point of purchase, retailers have claimed.

A series of Daily Mail “investigations”, which claim consumers are unwittingly buying halal meat, has gained little traction in the supermarket aisles. One retail insider said: “We haven’t seen any impact on sales at all; there has been no fall whatsoever.” And other buyers are reporting the same.

The Mail on Sunday continued to apply pressure to the industry last weekend, with Asda and McDonald’s proving the latest targets to be “outed” as allegedly selling halal meat as standard production.

The newspaper’s mini-campaign seeks to make the association that “ritualistic” halal production is cruel, due to animals not being stunned prior to slaughter. Yet according to latest research by sector body Eblex, between 80-90% of halal meat comes from animals that are stunned prior to slaughter. Peter Hardwick, Eblex head of trade development, said: “Our research covered 14 abattoirs that process halal products. Eleven of the 14, including the three largest producers, all slaughter with stun-ning. Of the remaining three, two slaughter without, and one does both, depending on customer needs.”

While he said there may be a few smaller operations outside of the survey, the hard evidence pointed to the fact that at least 80% of production used stunning.

The ongoing debate has left industry in a quandary on how to respond. Retailers are waiting to see consumer reaction, and processors are waiting to see how retailers react.

A spokesperson for Asda said: “It’s our policy that all animals used for Asda brand products, halal or non-halal, are stunned prior to slaughter, rendering them unconscious and insensitive to pain. In common with other retailers, we allow a brief invocation to ensure religious compliance. Labelling in all areas of our stores meets legal obligations.”

So far, the only retailer to react to the coverage has been Waitrose, which announced it would be changing all meat products in its Duchy Originals range from halal. The retailer said: “We have decided to offer our customers an option to buy lamb that has not received the halal blessing.” The store also said it would market this fact to customers. But all other Waitrose lamb products from the UK and New Zealand will continue to be halal, without being labelled halal on packaging.

Meanwhile, the call for clearer labelling of products continues. Agriculture minister Jim Paice told the Daily Mail: “People should know what they’re buying in the shops or when they’re eating out and I will be discussing with the food industry the role labelling can play in giving consumers a choice.”