The term “Halal” is becoming increasingly more common in western countries, even if most people are not exactly sure what it means.

In short, the word “halal “in Arabic, means “permitted” or “lawful.” Halal foods are foods that are allowed under Islamic dietary guidelines. According to these guidelines, Muslims cannot consume the following foods:

  • Pork or pork by-products
  • Animals that were dead prior to slaughtering
  • Animals not slaughtered properly or not slaughtered in the name of Allah
  • Blood and blood by-products
  • Alcohol
  • Carnivorous animals
  • Birds of prey
  • Land animals without external ears

These prohibited foods and ingredients are called haram, meaning forbidden in Arabic.

The Dhabihah slaughter method

While pork is the only meat that cannot be consumed by Muslims, other foods that are not pure are also considered haram. Dhabihah is the prescribed method of slaughter for all meat sources, excluding fish and other sea-life. This method consists of using a well-sharpened knife to make a swift, deep incision that cuts the front of the throat, the carotid artery, trachea and jugular veins. Also, the name of the animal must be aligned with the qiblah, the direction that should be faced when a Muslim prays in Mecca. In addition of the direction, animals should be slaughtered upon utterance of the Islamic prayer Bismillah “in the name of God”. The slaughter must be performed by a Muslim and blood must be drained from the veins.

Carrion (carcasses of dead animals), animal that has been strangled, beaten, killed by a fall, gored, savaged by a beast of prey (unless finished off by a human), or sacrificed on a stone altar cannot be eaten.

The animal may be stunned prior to having its throat cut: supermarkets selling halal products report that the animals are stunned before they are slaughtered and the UK Food Standards Agency declared that from 2011 84% of cattle, 81% of sheep and 88% of chickens slaughtered for halal meat were stunned before they died.

Some exception exists: if there is no other halal food available and the Muslim is forced by necessity, then a Muslim is allowed to eat non-halal food in order to prevent death due to starvation.

The market trend of Halal food

As consumers demand more transparency in terms of food labeling, halal certification is a topic that’s receiving increasing attention. Growth in trade with the Islamic Middle East and South East Asian markets represent new opportunities for food manufacturers to enter these emerging markets, with halal certification being key for a successful entry.

Analysis of global product launches with a halal-certified claim increased by 24 % in 2014 compared to 2010, according to Innova Market Insights data. Traditionally, while most halal-certified claims are found on product launches tracked in the Middle East and Asia regions, there is evidence of growth (+ 43 %, 2014 vs. 2010) for halal-certified product launches found outside of these regions. Halal certification is widespread for many product types, with leading sub-categories for global product launch activity tracked in 2014 being sweet biscuits/cookies and savory/salty snacks. Further demand for halal certified products should increase worldwide.