“The kind of treatment and feed an animal receives during its life is important,” notes food writer Yvonne Maffei in a blog entry on the Muslim Voices website. “It ...should not be confined to an area where it cannot move or walk normally or get fresh air..and should be fed clean water and food that is appropriate...”
A Healthy Opportunity for Delis, Sandwich Shops and the Meat and Cheese Purveyors that Serve Them
By Ed Avis
When customers walk into a Subway sandwich shop, they are usually looking for a quick, flavorful meal that is a bit healthier than most other fast food. The deli meats inside Subway sandwiches, which are lower in fat than a greasy hamburger, play a key role in delivering the taste and dietary benefits those customers seek.
"The North American Halal food market is growing at a rapid rate, with estimates that the market is currently worth $12 billion." – The Specialty Food Market in North America, March 2012
Some 200 Subway shops in the UK, and many more in the Middle East, have ramped up the perception of healthiness even further by serving only halal-approved meats. Halal is a system of animal care and meat preparation that results in meats that are highly sanitary and free of many common additives.
“We provide halal-certified meats where they are required by country or customer demand,” says Kevin Kane, public relations specialist at Subway. Subway began opening halal-only stores in the UK in 2007, and continues to do so when evidence shows that customers in a region prefer halal.
By offering halal products, Subway is reaching a growing segment of consumers who prefer that specific meat preparation due, usually, to their religious beliefs or health concerns.
By the Numbers
Just how important is the halal market to meat and cheese purveyors? Industry statistics underscore the opportunity this burgeoning segment provides.
According to the U.S. Halal Association, the demand for halal food products in the United States and around the world has greatly impacted the food
industry over the past two decades. The global halal food market is approximately $632 billion a year, or 16 percent of the total food industry, the association reports. The U.S. segment of the market is valued at $20 billion by the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America.
In addition, halal food and beverage is becoming increasingly popular worldwide and grew to a $1.1 trillion industry in 2013, according to the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry based on a recent study by Thomson Reuters in collaboration with Dinar Standard. The outlook remains bright: the market is projected to be worth U.S. $1.6 trillion by 2018, growing at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of about 6.9 percent, the study says.
Savvy suppliers have recognized halal’s growing popularity and are tapping the segment’s potential.
“The halal sector has tremendous growth ahead, both in the short term and long term,” says Adnan Durrani, chief halal officer of American Halal Co., Inc., a supplier of halal meats and other food products based in Stamford, Connecticut. “I believe in protein-based food products alone, halal [will become] a $3 to $4 billion sector in the next 15 years.”
“The halal market is the fastest growing food market segment in the world,” says Georg Huniken, CEO of Van Hees, a deli meat ingredient manufacturer based in Germany. The company feels so strongly about the market, in fact, that it opened a halal-certified plant in Wuppertal in 2013. The plant provides 100 percent halal-certified spice blends and food additives to meat producers.
"Halal is rapidly becoming accepted in the U.S. mainstream the way kosher was 60 years ago.”
— Paul Gillum, vice president of operations at Fresno, California-based Busseto Foods.
The word “halal” means, “permitted” in Arabic, and refers to food prepared in accordance to principles set forth in the Koran. In its most basic interpretation, halal refers to how the animal is slaughtered. The animal should be treated humanely up to the point of slaughter, and should be killed swiftly by cutting its throat.
However, many people who prefer halal food note that the halal concept begins well before the humane slaughter of the animal.
“The kind of treatment and feed an animal receives during its life is important,” notes food writer Yvonne Maffei in a blog entry on the Muslim Voices website. “It should not be abused, mistreated or caused any pain. It should not be confined to an area where it cannot move or walk normally or get fresh air. It should be fed clean water and food that is appropriate and absolutely never fed another animal or products that contain the by-products of other animals.”
Animals treated in that fashion are generally considered “free-range,” a concept familiar to many consumers. Free-range chicken and free-range beef is widely considered superior to factory-raised meat, and halal meat falls into that same category.
Furthermore, many halal meat farmers are family-owned, smaller operators, which further enhances their health appeal. “There is a major mainstream trend to support food companies that celebrate values that go back to the earth, which is clearly halal’s core value to a lot of even non-Muslims,” Durrani notes.
Barnett concurs with Durrani's thoughts. “As the American consumer becomes more aware of the methods used to produce the food they eat, they begin to make more educated decisions when it comes to the products they choose to consume,” he says. “The welfare of the food we eat is becoming an important virtue among consumers today. This brings about the consumers who look to enhance their well-being by choosing products that are consistent with those same principles.”
To be halal, food must be certified by one of several halal certification organizations.
“There are several halal certifiers within the U.S. who are recognized by the higher halal authority,” Barnett notes. “Of course, they are going to reinforce what the USDA is already implementing, but additionally they will inspect and monitor all animal raising and slaughter facilities, production plants and storage facilities for their adherence to the strict standards of halal.”
“At Deli Halal, the meaning of halal encompasses much more than the sacred slaughter; it begins with the life of the animal,” says Chris Barnett, executive vice president of Deli Halal, a Kansas-based company that provides halal-approved deli meats and cheeses to retailers. “The animals we get our food from shall be raised and harvested keeping mindful of their well-being throughout their entire life.”
The way animals are raised and slaughtered is just one component of halal certification. When it comes to deli meats, halal certification extends to all ingredients in the meat. Pork products, for example, cannot be added to the meat because pork in general is considered “haram,” or forbidden, as it is in kosher food. Alcohol is also forbidden, so meats cannot be fermented in any alcoholic liquid. Furthermore, any additives, such as coloring or flavoring, cannot include prohibited ingredients.
Huniken of Van Hees adds that having a halal-certified plant means that all raw ingredients are halal; the equipment is used exclusively for halal products; staff are trained in halal principles; and halal certifiers regularly inspect and audit.
The ingredients in deli cheeses also must be halal.
“All ingredients used in Deli Halal products are halal. For instance, Deli Halal uses a microbial enzyme to produce our cheeses, whereas most other cheeses are produced using a bovine enzyme,” Barnett notes.
When considering a company’s request for halal certification, the Islamic Society of the Washington Area (ISWA)—one of the main certification organizations in the U.S.— inspects factories to make sure that halal meats are processed separately from non-halal meats, on equipment that has not been used for pork. Small factories may set aside special days for halal processing. Larger factories that export to foreign markets have dedicated halal processing,” the United States Department of State’s “Certified Halal in the United States” pamphlet says.
"When considering a company’s request for halal certification, the Islamic Society of the Washington Area (ISWA)—one of the main certification organizations in the U.S.— inspects factories to make sure that halal meats are processed separately from non-halal meats, on equipment that has not been used for pork."
—United States Department of State, “Certified Halal in the United States” pamphlet
Halal Certification Organizations in the U.S.
Halal certification organizations inspect restaurant and grocery suppliers, including the large and small factories that process meat. The following organizations are among the main certifiers operating in the U.S.:
Halal Certification at the Islamic Society of the
Washington Area (ISWA)
Halal Transactions of Omaha
Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America
Islamic Services of America
Islamic Society of North America (ISNA)
Halal Food Council
To download the free pamphlet, Certified Halal in the United States, visit:
Any service deli or sandwich shop that decides to serve halal meats must take care to avoid cross-contamination with non-halal foods. For example, it should dedicate a slicer to the halal product to avoid cross-contamination. “My belief is that they should never use the same equipment unless it has been sterilized and segregated and then inspected by a food safety expert or halal certifier,” Durrani says.
In the UK Subway stores that serve halal meats, only halal meat is served, thus eliminating the cross-contamination concern. Furthermore, the bacon and ham products found in typical Subway stores have been swapped out with halal versions that are similar in taste.
“The meats served at halal Subway stores have been produced to meet Subway stores’ high standards in taste, look and quality,” the company’s website reads. “The objective was to ensure the taste of the halal products matched the taste of the Subway stores’ ‘Gold Standard’ meats.”
Due to the growing popularity of the SUBWAY® chain, with the diverse multicultural population across the UK and Ireland, we put a programme in place in 2007 to ensure that the population demographic is taken into account when new store openings are considered in order that we meet consumer demand in each location. — http://www.subway.co.uk
Not for Muslims only
The Muslim population is an obvious target for halal food products, but, just as many non-Jews consume kosher foods. Halal foods are preferred by many non-Muslims and that growing popularity makes the market a promising one for meat and cheese suppliers.
“American Muslims’ consumption of halal products will, for sure, go up dramatically given the very stellar demographics of the U.S. Muslim population, but many non-Muslims are buying halal, too,” Durrani says. “Halal is rapidly becoming accepted in the U.S. mainstream the way kosher was 60 years ago. Kosher meats alone are over a $10 billion sector in U.S. and $150 billion in all kosher products. So halal has some huge upside potential available to it.”
A growing distrust of big food brands, especially by Millennials, will also drive sales of halal products, Durrani predicts.
“With social media, consumers can demand and will only support food brands that are transparent, authentic, and the real deal,” he concludes. “For the first time this unleashes a tsunami of opportunity for halal suppliers.”
Over 1.6 billion or about 25 percent of the world population are Muslims
The U.S. Muslim population is projected to grow from 2.6 million people in 2010 to 6.2 million in 2030
The global halal market is estimated to be worth U.S. $632 billion a year
Kosher food standard bears certain similarities to the Muslim halal standard
In order to be halal, the following are forbidden:
• Pork and pork by-products
• Animals improperly slaughtered
• Animals that were dead prior to slaughtering
• Blood and blood by-products
• Products containing alcohol
Fast Facts About Halal
Source: U.S. Halal Association