Editor's Comment

Halal has always been something of a thorny issue for the meat industry, with many reluctant to get drawn into an area that is seen to be fraught with religious pitfalls. However, the Daily Mail's recent mini-campaign has thrown a rather uncomfortable light on the subject, and the industry has been left in a bit of a quandary.

The fact that meat products are out there, produced to halal requirements yet sold as standard products, has never been a secret. But at the same time, neither has it been broadcast. The vast majority if not all of that kind of product is stunned, making the difference between halal and standard negligible. But with the Mail attempting to whip up a frenzy, getting that message out there may become more challenging.

However, with consumers showing little sign of warming to the Mail's theme, industry paralysis on the issue may well prove the right decision. After all, if the consumer isn't interested in whether the meat is halal or not, why change the way industry does things, adding unnecessary cost. We're all interested in honest and open production, but as in this case, where the difference in production mainly involves a prayer at the moment of slaughter, do we really need to spell that out on the label?

Most of the furore over the issue is the newspaper's attempts to suggest that halal production is cruel and does not feature stunning. Yet statistics from Eblex show that more than 80% of production features stunning, effectively negating the Mail's argument. The remaining volume will be for a niche minority of Muslims who interpret the rules differently to the majority and is unlikely to be on the shelves, unmarked, in your local supermarket.

Should the industry be more proactive about tackling any media slurs? Probably. But if the consumer doesn't appear to give a monkeys, that's a strong case for simply letting the Daily Mail get bored and find some new minority to pick on.

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