The waning demand for meat within the US has raised alarms about the future of the industry and thousands of jobs associated with it. However, US beef exports to the Middle East region alone gained 36%, and were valued at $355 million in 2011. In February 2012, the latest month for which data is available, exports to the region increased 13 percent in volume and 19 percent in value i.e. by $53.3 million. Nonetheless, the USDA is also anticipating that US beef exports could fall by 3 percent in 2012 due to lower calf births. This could give competitors for a share of the Middle Eastern market an easy-in. The USDA predicts that Indian exports will increase by 25% in 2012.
As outlined in the IFANCA 2012 study ‘Halal Boosts US Economy & Exports’, it is clear that halal certification will not only save the threatened jobs but will add to them. The growing demand from the Muslim world for quality halal products presents the US meat industry with an opportunity as well as a challenge. The Middle East region is going to become even more important in the future since it imports between 80-90 percent of its food requirements. Fresh meats continue to be undersupplied in the Middle East as well as in other Muslim countries like Malaysia and Indonesia.
Unlike some of its emerging competitors, the US has higher food safety and hygiene standards. It can capitalize on these strengths by combining them with a reliable halal certification system.
Many livestock rich countries from South Asia and Latin America have their eyes set on this market and are expected to be tough competition to US producers. India is already set to become the world’s largest beef exporter and its major target regions are the Middle East and North Africa. Indian exports to the region are expected to see a 25% increase in 2012. Argentina and Uruguay are also planning to fill the supply gap and their exports are expected to increase by 10 percent.
According to the National Chicken Council there are about sixty five plants with halal capability out of more than three hundred in the US. Translated into jobs this means that there are around sixty three thousand directly affected and about forty two thousand indirectly affected jobs in the halal broiler chicken sector alone. Similarly, hundreds of thousands of jobs are associated with the beef, lamb, and goat industry in the US. The interests of these workers are associated not only with exports but also the domestic American Muslim consumer market.
In order to strengthen its position as the largest exporter of beef, the US will need to re-focus its strategy. Combining its high quality standards with credible halal certification would ensure that it maintains an edge over other emerging agricultural giants.