How the halal sector presents major opportunities

Dr Phil Hadley's blog articlesThe halal sector adds value to the sheep market in particular and, increasingly, for the cattle market. Halal presents a significant market opportunity, which processors can capitalise on, particularly when it comes to sheep meat.  

And the statistics speak for themselves. Sheep meat is a primary protein choice for Muslim consumers, and with a UK population of 2.7 million – 4.8% of the total population – there is a clear market for sheep meat producers to focus on.

As with any industry, it is vital to fully understand the market and, in the case of the halal sector, keep a keen eye on the Islamic calendar to plan production and deliver products at key times of the year to maximise the market’s full potential.

After all, the Muslim community consumes around 20% of all the sheep meat sold in England, with consumption peaking around the Ramadan and Eid festivals.

Processors should plan accordingly with suppliers, to target the Muslim market throughout the year. Ramadan, for example, falls in the ninth lunar month of the Islamic calendar, when nothing is eaten between dawn and sunset. Food is, however, celebrated at larger social gatherings in the evenings, helping to drive up demand. The Islamic calendar is lunar-based, so dates move back about 10 to 11 days every year.

This year Ramadan began on 18 June. Next year it will begin on 7 June, underlining how crucial it is to plan to maximise the market’s potential.

Similarly, the festival of Eid-al-Adha is held approximately 70 days after the end of Ramadan, where it is incumbent upon every Muslim to follow in the footsteps of the Prophet Abraham and have an animal slaughtered as an offering to God. Called the Qurbani, meat is received in three portions – one for the person buying, one for friends and neighbours, and one for charity, again helping drive a spike in demand. During this period, the community looks for mature animals, aged six months or older that are fit, healthy and lean.

Further opportunities are presented in export markets. The UK is the biggest sheep meat producer in Europe and the largest exporter. The UK exports around 35% of its sheep meat production, the vast majority of which goes to Europe, and Europe’s Muslim population is expected to grow from 6% in 2010 to 8% in 2030. With a potential 15.4 million Muslim customers in Europe, we are in a strong position to cater for the demand. France, for example, is the UK’s largest export market for sheep meat and, with a considerable Muslim population, represents a significant market opportunity.

Indeed, many supermarkets in France now offer halal-specific aisles. Further afield, with growing market access and approvals, the UK is in a good position to capitalise on global demand for halal products.

The picture looks positive. While public perception of halal is often tainted by a lack of understanding of the sector, the reality is that it presents a valuable market opportunity. By fully understanding the market and key dates in the Islamic calendar, the UK sheep meat industry is ideally placed to reap the rewards offered by the halal sector.

Therefore, there are fantastic opportunities that the halal market presents the sheep meat sector. AHDB Beef & Lamb has produced a number of resources to help the industry harness the market’s potential.

Other resources include our halal cuts posters and the Lamb Cutting Guide for the halal market, developed as a training tool and to provide a single comprehensive specification to ensure consistency throughout the halal industry. Our Halal Meat Facts booklet, for example, also gives a snapshot of key statistics and the opportunities presented by the sector in the UK and in export markets.

Further information on halal can be found in the halal section of the AHDB Beef & Lamb Trade website and the Corporate Publications section of the AHDB Beef & Lamb website

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