UK Halal Meat Report 2006

Ready for take-off

Published: (05-05-2006)

forward-thinking processors are blazing a trail in the burgeoning halal
meat sector, confusion and trepidation around the Muslim practice of
religious slaughter are preventing realisation of its full potential.

TO Mintel, halal meat accounts for 11% of all UK meat sales – a figure
which all in the meat industry should be alert to, because the
percentage of Muslims in the country is only 3%. Estimates of the UK’s
Muslim population range from 1.5 to 1.9 million, but consumption of
halal is not restricted to followers of Islam. Many other demographic
groups are also taking to the meat because of perceptions about its
freshness and hygiene. So even though the sector has been battered in
recent years by conflicting certification schemes, import frauds and
highly-publicised attacks from animal welfare groups, many established
industry names are joining the sector, creating new opportunities and
categories such as organic and value-added meats. However, before the
sector shifts up a gear, certification still needs to be clarified.

the major players around the world are using a similar standard, with
the exception of the UK,” says Naved Syed of the UK Halal Corporation.
Aiming to achieve government backing for his scheme, he claims the
wider meat industry bodies have acknowledged the size of the sector,
but insists that a lack of understand-ing has hampered any real effort
to promote or capitalise on halal trade. British Meat Foodservice Trade
Sector Manager Tony Goodger concurs: “I know – from speaking with HM
Prisons, the NHS and school meals inspectors – that there is a real
need for a government-backed halal assurance scheme to cut through the
myriad of existing schemes,” he says. “At the moment, there’s a lot of

Media coverage of fraudulent halal
claims has cast a further cloud over the sector, from the Food Standard
Agency’s exposure of imported Dutch poultry impregnated with beef and
pork proteins, to the more recent case of pork products mistakenly
offered up to Muslim pupils at a Cardiff school.The latter incident, at
Mount Stuart School in the city, resulted in an apology from Cardiff
City Council, citing a ‘lapse in supervision’ by school catering staff.
And meanwhile, the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) is among animal
rights groups continuing to call for an end to religious slaughter,
which prohibits the prior stunning of animals. Both halal and kosher
meat production require slaughter by a single cut to the throat. FAWC
claims it can take up to two minutes for the animals to bleed to death;
an allegation countered by organisations such as the Muslim Council of
Britain. Back in 2004, the government rejected FAWC proposals for a ban
on religious slaughter, with Defra Animal Welfare Minister Ben Bradshaw
saying: “We will not ban the production of halal or kosher meat. A ban
could simply result in kosher and halal meat being imported. We would,
therefore, be exporting the problem, resulting in no overall
improvement in animal welfare.”

According to Halal
Food Authority (HFA) president, Masood Khawaja, the animal rights
lobby’s opposition to halal slaughter is weakening, as more
transparency about the practice is achieved. “We would like people to
understand that it is not cruel to animals,” he says, citing a recent
conference in Egypt where academics and animal welfare representatives
engaged in less contentious discussion on halal production.

is not the issue,” says Khawaja. “It’s the presence of a Muslim
slaughterman that is important. Our aim is for everyone to understand
what halal is.”

For Khawaja, the meat industry is
beginning to realise the potential of halal, with many mainstream
manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers signing up. Those endorsed
under HFA certification range from Aldi, Asda and Sainsbury’s, casings
manufacturer Devro, the Faccenda Group, Hamer International, Lloyd
Maunder, HM Bennett, Linden Foods, RWM Dorset and Welsh Country Foods.
“The halal market is thriving, not just for local clientele here but
also for export,” he says. “It is much better understood now by
slaughter houses and cutting plants. It’s not only trade for them but a
service to the community as well. And the general masses are realising
that halal can also be eaten by non-Muslims.”

is plenty of room for UK halal production to be stepped up, says
Khawaja. Increasing exports would ben-efit the farming and processing
industries, while allowing some displacement of some questionable
imports. At the retail end of the trade, a count of British halal
butchers’ conducted by the Authority proved inconclusive. “One shop
would close and two more would spring up,” Khawaja says. However,
around 3,000 shops are estimated to exist across the country, although
Khawaja says this is probably an under-estimate, and notes that there
are 31 halal butchers’ on one East London street alone. Halal ranges in
the multiple retailers have also come on in leaps and bounds, he adds.
“We find them to be of good quality, nicely packed and priced, and of
good appearance.”

Manufacturers of additives and
colours are increasingly producing to halal specification, including
Scottish firm Macphie, which supplies sauces, marinades and butters to
the meat trade. Progress on the manufacturing side is allowing the
development of halal foods beyond traditional Arabian and Oriental
dishes to more western-influenced fare.

“There is
a lot more to be done,” says Khawaja. “Now halal food is available in
chilled and canned products. This generation of Muslims is looking for
convenience meals, provided with full traceability and certification.”

such provider is MFA Cash and Carry, which supplies the Robert halal
meat range – including frankfurter sausages, luncheon meats, canned,
chilled and frozen chicken, turkey and beef products. Halal-certified
by the Islamic Cultural Centre and the Muslim World League, the range
was showcased at the London Halal Exhibition during the World Food
Market last November. Another emerging halal sub-sector is organic,
continues Khawaja, with a fully traceable and halal-certified organic
range set for launch later this year.

catering is also growing. Chefs are ringing the HFA for advice daily,
and British Airways now serves HFA-approved meals. Halal is still a
niche market, but is certainly moving away from Mintel’s 2002 profile
of the sector, which painted a picture of fragmented supply through a
network of inde-pendent retailers. While older Muslim consumers are
expected to remain faithful to their trusted butcher suppliers, the
multiples are picking up trade from the younger generation. Budgens,
for instance, stocks Tahira chicken in 10 of its stores. “To reach
these household shoppers of the future, suppliers should now look at
targeting this group with inexpensive promotions to various Muslim
groups, such as students,” advises Mintel.

will foster brand- and store-loyalty, and establish shopping patterns
for the future.” The majority of British Muslims originate from
Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and the Middle East, and this offers
opportunities for diversifiying products to match the tastes of each
nation – Middle Eastern food, for example, will not be as spicy as
Indian. A market is also emerging for halal fast food and
western-inspired convenience options, especially for younger
generations of British Muslims.“Chilled ready-meals are expanding
faster than frozen, as they have a premium and more authentic image,”
says Mintel. “Halal ready-meals are well placed to exploit this, as
they can claim to be prepared from authentic ingredients, namely halal
meat, and are based on traditional dishes.

adds: “There is substantial latent demand for halal processed and
convenience foods that remains untapped, for both meat- and non
meat-based products.’ Ready meals manufacturers could also capitalise
on the popularity of Indian food in Britain to reach a wider,
non-Muslim pool of consumers. Convenience categories such as pizza are
also ripe for expansion in the halal sector, according to Mintel, as
are functional foods with health benefits and organic options.The
research body also believes the sector would benefit from more
nationally-recognised brands – Tahira and Maggi are among only a
handful. Many other brands operate regionally only. “The development of
nationally recognised and trusted brand names will be essential in
growing the market, both to Muslim consumers and beyond,’ says the

Meanwhile, multinational companies such as
Nestlé and McDonald’s are being urged to use their experience of
trading in Muslim countries to promote halal fare in the UK. In the
foodservice sector, UK halal kebab shops are thought to number well
over 2,000, in addition to many halal burger and chicken fast-food
restaurants and takeaways.“These outlets will influence the market for
food bought for in-home consumption, in that consumers are likely to
want to replicate meals eaten out at home,” according to Mintel.
“Trends in the types of halal fast-food outlets will provide
manufacturers with a source of future NPD. For example, there are a
number of pizzerias emerging that offer halal-meat toppings. Chinese
food is another example, with the emergence of halal Chinese
restaurants in London and Birmingham.”Given the potential size of the
halal market, there is a surprisingly small amount of advertising to
support it – opportunities available across all media are relatively
untapped, compared to non-niche markets. Improved labelling could go
some way to redressing the balance, says Mintel, as would the adoption
of a halal food symbol “that can reassure Muslim purchasers”.

Halal: What is it?

to Mintel, halal means ‘lawful and permitted’. In food terms, products
are not halal if they contain alcohol, any part of a pig, carrion,
carnivorous animal meat, or blood. Sometimes prawns and other scavenger
seafood are included here. Foods are also not halal if the meat
contained has not been slaughtered according to Islamic law. Gelatine,
which is a by-product of a mainly non-halal slaughterhouse industry, is
also not halal.

Crowning glory: East Anglian satis?es market for halal chicken

ANGLIA-BASED Crown Chicken expects to increase its halal production to
two thirds of total trade within the next few years. Currently
processing a third – 100,000 birds – to halal speci?cation weekly, the
company has built up the trade over three years. “It’s a small niche
market but it was the right size for our company and it was an
available niche,” says Crown Chicken head of sales & marketing
Dennis Manley. Only minor alterations were needed to convert the site
for halal production and, in terms of staf?ng, “our operation ?tted
into it fairly well,” he says. Crown Chicken already employed Muslims
among its 180 workers. “It just required a reorganisation of what
people were doing,” says Mr Manley, to ensure the slaughter line was
manned by Muslims. A vertically integrated operation, Crown Chicken
controls its whole chain from the manufacture of feed to chicken

Certified by Assured British Chicken
and the Halal Food Authority, and carrying EFSIS higher level
accreditation for its plant, it supplies retailers, wholesalers and the
foodservice sector. Offering a full range of whole and portioned
chicken, its produce is stocked by Lidl, Netto and Booker, while
supplies under the Tahira Foods brand go into Budgens and the Co-op.
Halal does attract a small premium, says Manley, and further expansion
into value-added halal products is certainly under consideration. Bird
flu has not hurt business to date, he says, with the company
experiencing one of its busiest days to date last week despite the
emergence of a second case in Britain. “Crown is one of the only
producers of British farm-assured-halal chicken,” he says. It is also
the only fully integrated halal chicken producer in the UK, he claims.

Looking for assurance

PROFUSION of assurance schemes and quality marks in the wider meat
industry has often come under fire for leaving consumers dazed and
confused. In the halal meat sector, the issue appears to be compounding
the element of mystification still surrounding religious slaughter and
production. Among bodies vying to certify halal status are the Halal
Food Authority (HFA), UK Halal Corporation (UKHC), Islamic Cultural
Centre, Muslim World League and Muslim Food Board, to name a few.
Spokesman Naved Syed claims UKHC is responsible for the first written
standard for halal production in the UK, which equates to standards
currently recognised around the globe but lacking uniform application
in Britain. He hopes to achieve government backing for the scheme,
which has been in operation for two years and is certified by EFSIS and
Law Labs. Birmingham City Council commissioned the written standard.
HFA President Masood Khawaja, meanwhile, works with certification
bodies in other countries to ensure their specifications are on a par
with the authority’s. “We are very happy to work with the other
endorsing bodies in the promotion of halal,” he adds.

SPECIFICATIONS for minced and diced lamb, scheduled for release towards
the end of this month, are the latest sector-specific offering from
British Meat Foodservice. For use in the public sector, the
specifications relate to both fresh meat and produce going into
manufacturing including ready-meals, and have been developed by British
Meat Foodservice Trade Sector Manager Tony Goodger. British Meat
Foodservice’s latest initiative follows on from its publication of a
halal-orientated public sector catering guide and recipe supplement.

halal edition of its Catering in the Public Sector booklet focuses on
halal beef and lamb and is endorsed by the Islamic Cultural Centre in
London. Offering information to caterers, food buyers and menu planners
in the sector, the publication also features advice on marketing
opportunities, religious festivals and the nutritional merits of halal
meat. The recipe supplement, in English and Urdu, centres around halal
lamb with nutritional tips aiming to achieve healthy, balanced menus.
Both publications are available free of charge to caterers dealing with
halal products.