Understanding the halal market

Thursday, 5 January 2023

The halal sector presents many opportunities for farmers and processors to diversify their livestock production to cater for the growing demand for halal beef and lamb in the UK. During November and December, AHDB’s halal sector manager, Awal Fuseini, led a series of farmer-focused meetings throughout Cumbria to showcase the halal market and dispel common misconceptions about what it entails. 

Awal works closely with key stakeholders to create a better understanding of the requirements of halal meat production through educational resources and events. Over 200 farmers from the local area attended the meetings, which presented a unique opportunity for them to ask their own questions. As well as watching a live butchery demonstration by AHDB Senior Trade Butcher Martin Eccles, it was shown how lambs can be cut differently to maximise the sale of the product and gain better returns on the carcase.

At each meeting Awal highlighted the significance of the halal market to the sheep industry and talked through the intricacies of the slaughter process while clarifying the importance of animal welfare throughout. He explained the importance of the Demonstration of Life protocol in providing assurance to Muslim consumers on the compatibility of head-only electrical stunning for halal meat production. The Demonstration of Life protocol is an industry-led assurance tool that was introduced in the UK for abattoirs to be able to demonstrate to the Muslim authorities that head-only electrical stunning of small ruminants is non-lethal and hence compatible with halal slaughter.

Awal also discussed opportunities in the sector, highlighting that the peak time for halal meat consumption is observed around the religious festivals, particularly during Qurbani. Qurbani is the festival of feast during which each Muslim family places an order with a butcher or an abattoir for an animal to be processed on their behalf. There is a requirement for the animal to be sexually mature which is interpreted to be a minimum of six months for lambs and 24 months for cattle. Farmers wishing to supply stock to the Qurbani market can read more about the requirements and dates of the festival by reading our ‘Understanding the Qurbani market’ guide available on the AHDB website ahdb.org.uk.

Other speakers at the events included Grace Randall from AHDB’s Market Intelligence team who told the audience about the demand for the halal sector within the UK, which is of growing importance to the national economy. Spend in the UK halal food and beverage industry in 2016 reached an estimated £4.64 billion, or 8% of the UK’s total food and drink spend. A major part of the halal food market is meat. Although Muslims account for just under 5% of the UK population, they account for an estimated 20% of lamb consumption in England alone. More than 60% of halal consumers eat lamb weekly, compared with just 6% of the general UK population (AHDB, Demand for halal meat report, 2020).

It is not only in the domestic market where there are opportunities for the halal sector. There are opportunities for the export of UK halal sheep meat to the EU, with the major destinations being France, Germany and Belgium. Outside the EU, there is appetite for UK sheep meat in Muslim-majority countries, including countries in the Middle East and Asia (AHDB, Opportunities for the sheep sector report, 2021).

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) forecast that global sheep meat consumption will grow 1.7–1.9% annually in the coming years. Asia-Pacific and Africa are the two regions forecast to see significant increases in consumption due to a rapidly emerging affluent middle class. 

The UK has market access to many countries in North Africa and the Middle East. Figures from HMRC show that between 2018 and 2019, there was a 301% increase in the volume of UK lamb exported to the Middle East from animals that were stunned prior to slaughter and there are opportunities to further increase our presence in these export markets.

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With the global halal market projected to see a continual rapid growth, AHDB has several initiatives aimed at further developing the domestic and export markets. This includes work to identify and open new halal markets for both sheep meat and beef and working with our international exports team who attend multiple conferences and exhibitions around the globe to meet with key buyers of British beef and lamb.

If you would like to know more about these meetings or content, please contact Karl Pendlebury, Knowledge Exchange Manager (North West) via our contact pages ahdb.org.uk/beef-lamb-engagement-team .