A large part of the world population is practicing the Muslim religion. As a result, the slaughtering of animals in these communities must take place according to Halal requirements. Particularly demand for Halal slaughtered chickens is growing.
By Fabio Nunes, Poultry Processing Consultant, Brazil
As per the US Census Bureau’s Population Clock, there were 6.773 billion people living on the earth’s surface on 21 July, 2009. Among the many religions this huge population could be broken down into, four major groups embrace approx. 84% of the earth’s population. Right behind the Catholics, the largest group, come the Muslims, including Sunni, Shi’ite, as well as other groups. This religion embraces around 20.28% of the world’s population, or approx. 1.374 billion people.
Muslims are by majority concentrated in Asia, particularly in Indonesia, the largest contingent of Muslims in the world (800 millions people), Africa (330 million) and the Middle East (200 million). There are fewer Muslims in the European Union (20 million), North America (9 million) and South America (3 million).
Islamic Dietary Law
Muslims are all those that profess the Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the teachings of the Koran, the central sacred book of Islam, which is considered by its adherents to be the verbatim word of God and the book of divine guidance and direction for mankind. The religious practices of Muslims are ruled by the five pillars of Islam, the term given to the five duties incumbent on every Muslim and that unite them into a community. The Islamic Law, or Shariah, which touches on virtually every aspect of life and society, encompassing everything from warfare and welfare to banking, service, dressing and dietary laws, rules Muslims’ personal conduct.
In the context of Shariah “Halal” means permitted, allowed, lawful or legal and, in relation to food or drink, it means all those items lawful, permitted or allowed for consumption by Muslims. The Islamic dietary laws, which recognise which food and drinks are Halal, are defined in the Koran, in the Hadith (sayings of the last Prophet, Muhammad) and in the fiqh (jurisprudence) of the Muslim Jurists. The classification of food products as Halal is a very serious religious matter and only a Muslim who is an expert in the Islamic Dietary Laws may carry it out. The antonymous to Halal is Haram, which means prohibited, not allowed, unlawful, illegal as per the same principles of the Islamic Dietary Laws. Halal and Haram are, therefore, universal terms that apply to all facets of a Muslim’s life.
Poultry lawful for consumption
As per the Islamic Laws, animals belong to two categories - terrestrial and aquatic. All terrestrial animals are lawful for consumption unless they fit into one of the following exceptions: (1) those processed unaccordingly to Islamic Laws; (2) pigs and dogs; (3) predators; (4) birds of prey; (5) plagues (mice, centipedes and others); (6) animals prohibited to kill according to Islam (bees, woodpeckers and others); and, (7) repulsive creatures (lynx, fl ies and etc.). Chicken, turkey, quails, beef or goat are therefore lawful, permitted or allowed for consumption by Muslims provided they are certified Halal.
The killing process is not the only prerequisite. The meat to be certified as Halal needs to answer, but also is the observance of appropriate hygiene and sanitary conditions of personnel, uniforms, equipment and production and processing methods as well, during the handling and preparation of Halal food. Despite most of these, hygiene requirements are usually fully covered by the Good Manufacturing Practices programmes. One is of special religious significance - to secure the packing material does not contain raw materials that are illicit or impure (Najs) according to the Islamic Law, therefore requiring careful attention from food companies to secure its fulfilment. Why should a poultry company apply for a Halal certification given the necessity to fulfil all of these unique and strict requirements and operational conditions?
Large demand for Halal products
The market for Halal certified products is physically huge and economically promising. To date, it embraces around 1.5 billion Muslims in 112 countries, besides a meaningful contingent of non-Muslims consumers that have elected to consume Halal products.
Muslims are not a group demographically stagnant, but very dynamic. The highest rates of population growth over the past 45 years are seen in the oil exporting countries of Western Asia. The United Arab Emirates, for instance, had a mean annual growth of 7.7%, between 1950 and 1995, thanks to high rates of fertility and immigration, which also fuelled the exceptionally rapid population growth in Qatar, Western Sahara, Kuwait, Djibouti and Saudi Arabia. What is clear from this data is that Muslim and Muslim-majority countries are among the highest contributors to world population growth.
Additionally, sources suggest that Europe is home to over 50 million Muslims, and that Europe’s Muslim population has grown by more than 140% in the past decade. Muslims across Europe have far higher consumer spending power than those in the Middle East and North Africa with 2nd and 3rd generation European Muslims seeking out convenience and looking for products such as Halal pizzas, lasagne and hot dogs.
In the EU, France is home to the largest Muslim community (4.7 million people) and represents the largest Halal market among the member states, with sales ranging from US$2-4 billion in 2006, according to USDA/FAS report. The French Halal food market has experienced a signifi cant growth, and distribution is shifting from small traditional markets to high-volume retail outlets. Halal meat consumption alone accounts for 10-15% of the French meat market. Halal consumers make up an estimated 10-15% of hypermarket clients and they spend about 30% of their household budgets on food, in contrast to the average French household’s 14%, according to a World Food Market study. An estimated 200,000-500,000 mt of Halal meat are consumed in France each year, of which 350,000 mt are beef or goat meat. Halal consumption appeals particularly to the younger generation of immigrant origin. Consumers under 30 years old comprise approx. 80% of France’s Halal consumers and, within this group, about two million consumers are between 20-40 years old with immigrant parents or grandparents. The consumers who buy Halal products the most frequently and who spend the most per month on Halal products (at €150-250 per month) are consumers of Arab and Berber origin.
Requirements for Halal slaughtering
To be certifi ed Halal, meat for human consumption must come from animals slaughtered and processed in full compliance with the Shariah’s requirements:
- The slaughterhouse where the animals are slaughtered ritually according to the Islamic Law should be Halal certifi ed by an accredited Muslin body and/or authority.
- Only Muslim males mindful of the fundamental rules and conditions related to the slaughtering of animals in Islam can perform the slaughtering of the animals.
- The slaughtering is devoted to Allah.
- Only live animals can be slaughtered.
- The animal must be healthy and attested as so by the local health authority.
- The sentence “In the Name of Allah, The Merciful, The Compassionate” must be pronounced by the employees when performing the slaughtering.
- The slaughter lines, tools and utensils may be used for Halal slaughtering purpose only.
- The knives must be very sharp.
- The slaughtering must consist of a semi-circular clean cut of the artery carotid, windpipe, oesophagus and the jugular vein.
- Bones and teeth cannot be used as slaughtering tools.
- A Muslim inspector responsible for inspecting the animals and the slaughter process must be on duty at the plant.
- The stun prior to slaughter is not recommended.
The important question, then, is how to supply foods - particularly Halal foods - to this ever growing Muslim population scattered all over the world? Endogenous supply of foods from the Middle East and Asian countries is unlikely to sufficiently meet the demand created by the Muslim population growth inside and outside these regions given the low level of agricultural technology and geography of many of those countries. Therefore, a significant food supply must come from exogenous sources.
In view of the promising market fuelled by the high food demand from Muslims worldwide, many western countries have come forward to supply Halal foods to Muslim consumers. These western countries have been successful in doing so because of several factors.
Firstly, the supply sources in western countries have the appropriate structures for monitoring and certification of Halal food exports. Appropriate structures imply, as a minimum, that there are Islamic societies or agencies in supply countries, which had been approved by Halal importing countries and, once approved, are listed with the relevant government agency. The primary role of these organisations is to monitor Halal production and processes by ensuring that they have been carried out in accordance with the Islamic Law and any regulations or orders of public interest by the importing country.
At present, the largest consumer market of Halal products is southeast and western Asia. However, it is expected that consumption of these products will increase considerably in the stream of the Islamic population growth in the world. There are some unique characteristics of this group of consumers:
- They have one of the highest per capita incomes in the world.
- They have the fastest growing middle classes in the world.
- They import a significant proportion of their food needs.
- They have the highest rates of population growth in the world.
A bright future
The potential products for this immense market include pharmaceutics, cosmetics, leather goods, services and, of course, food, the most traditional Halal product market. According to the USDA (2006), the consumption of Halal products has increased at an estimated 7-15% per year since 1998. Within the segment, the Halal foods market alone moves an estimated US$150 billion worth per year around the globe, posing a bright mid- and long-term future for food companies, in general, and poultry companies, in particular.