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Please note – this is a student paper for Cornell University Food Science Course 250. The information reported has not been independently verified.

Halal Meat Trade in the United States of America

by Adeel Iqbal

The global Halal meat trade amongst Muslim nations and supplier nations may be fully established and viable. However, the Halal meat trade in America is still in its rudimentary state. The Halal meat trade in America is completely dependent on its suppliers, who are often unreliable, in order to meet the demands of a large Muslim community in America. More research is still needed on the workings of the Halal meat trade in America. Still, it can be partially understood by observing major individual markets in the United States. Minimal information is available on the American Halal meat trade... resulting from bad record keeping in all facets of the trade ranging from the local butchery to the largest suppliers.

What is the demand for Halal meat? There are many prerequisites for Halal meat to be attractive and [profitable]{lucrative} in a market. First, Halal meat must clearly be of the highest quality. There must also be a clear system to properly authenticate that the meat is actually Halal. The transportation of Halal meat is also an issue since the transporting and packaging methods must themselves be Halal. For example, the meat must be transported free from {the} contaminants or non-Halal substances such as pork. Also, the [timely]{prompt} supply of Halal meat is necessary. For many Muslim families, Halal meat is a major portion of their diets and meat must be available at all times to meet this need and at a constant quality and price. Today, one can get good quality {of} meat from a butcher or local grocery store, but when one goes there again the next week the meat will be of inferior quality. There is a strong need to stabilize and standardize the Halal trade. Besides just butcheries selling meat directly, there must also be a sufficient availability of establishments to distribute prepared Halal meat specialties. More restaurants are needed. There has been a major increase in the occurrence of Halal meat restaurants in cities such as New York City, Boston, Chicago, and Detroit. There is a great need for diversification of these restaurants to include not just traditional Indian/Pakistani foods, but many other types of cuisine including American and Chinese.

Why is the American Halal meat market important? To answer this question, we must look at the scope and size of the American Halal meat trade. There are eight million Muslims in America (Chaudry 5/1/00). Islam has been noticed by Hillary Clinton to be the fastest growing religion in America.[[ref?]] There are approximately 20 major Halal meat markets in America (Chaudry 5/1/00). Prominent markets include New York City, Chicago, Boston[,] and Detroit. Eight million Muslims at a food budget of 1500 dollars a year equals a 12 billion market. Out of which meat and poultry accounts for 20% or 3 billion dollars (5/1/00).

It must be noted that the Halal meat trade in America is just a branch of the Halal meat trade [around]{of} the world. There are variations of global Halal meat markets and disparities remain, yet demands for Halal meat is universal.

The Muslim population is the result of generations of immigration to America. They have brought along with them Halal meat and its trade. An example of the link between the American Halal meat trade and the global Halal meat trade can be seen in the example with Mirjac. Mirjac is a Halal meat supplying company located near Washington[,] DC that produces 100 million dollars worth of chicken, which it exports solely to Saudi Arabia (Afsal 4/2/00).

An important Halal-certifying agency in the US is IFANCA, the Islamic Food and Nutritional Council of America. IFANCA is an organization{;} regulating and certifying slaughtered Halal meat and other Halal food products. IFANCA “certifies and continually monitors all Al Safa Halal production facilities, procedures, product ingredients, storage facilities, shipping, and their chicken and beef hand slaughter”(IFANCA 2000). It is a non-profit, tax exempt, non-political Islamic organization ([IFANCA] 2000). The mission for IFANCA is to increase the awareness of the institution of “Halal”, extending the benefits of Islamic dietary laws to Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The organization does not only certify but it educates as well.

Another main Halal meat certifying organization that parallels IFANCA is the international organization, the Muslim Food Board from the UK. The organization stands for the “consultancy, research and authentication of products for Halal consumption”(Muslim Food Board 2000). Its main service is to provide food manufacturers Halal certification of their products. The Board’s issuance of a Halal certificate is an assurance that a particular product has been thoroughly investigated and found to conform to Islamic Dietary Laws, and therefore, is suitable for consumption by Muslims. Products that are Halal certified as Halal by the Board can use their registered trademarked Halal logo ([Muslim Food Board] 2000). All the submissions for Halal certification are investigated and vetted by the authentication department. An investigation of all the ingredients and all aspects of the manufacturing method of the product are thorough ([MFB] 2000). The purpose is to ensure the product does not contain, is not derived from[,] and does not come into contact with any non-Halal substances. The investigation includes:


The organization is linked with the registered Halal logo.

A major marketing and producing area of Halal meat is Australia. One of the major organizations involved with Halal meat is the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC). It is a major body in implementing the laws and sociological functions for Islam in Australia. It combines Halal meat slaughter with community and religious social life. AFIC is a major meat exporter to Muslim countries (AFIC 2000). It appoints Muslim representatives that monitor the entire operation when the animal enters the abattoir until the meat is packed and shipped ([AFIC] 2000). The representatives oversee the complete quarantining and thorough cleansing of the slaughter houses, cool rooms, chillers, freezers, packing and loading areas[,] and all equipment therein, in accordance with Islamic Law ({ }Shariah). They also take part in supervising the Muslim slaughtermen who follow the Islamic rules of slaughter. AFIC is large enough to cooperate, in terms of seeking approval and endorsement, with the Government Department of Primary Industry of Australia ([AFIC] 2000). The organization preaches that for a product to be certified Halal[,] it is not sufficient to use Halal certified raw materials and ingredients. The equipment employed must be cleansed according to Shariah and the environment must be suitable for Halal as well. This means that equipment and environment must be kept clean and away from impure or dirty substances considered Haram (forbidden) such as animal and human metabolic wastes. Assurance that the product is Halal is made by AFIC only if every step is supervised by a Muslim representative ([AFIC] 2000). The AFIC Halal meat regulation advisory committee is composed of food technologists and {I}[industrial experts. [[The jump from America to the world and back to the US is a bit awkward.]]

While AFIC is a major international meat supplier, it must be noted that the two most prominent ethnic locations tied directly to the Halal meat industry in America are Jackson Heights of Queens and Devon street of Chicago; however, significant communities are also located in Boston and Detroit. Halal meat is[widely available]{highly consumed} in these locations more so than non-Halal products. In Jackson Heights the most prominent Halal meat store[s] are those of Indian or Pakistani origin. Kabob King Palace, next to the mosque of Taqwa of Queens, is quite famous. There is also variety [available] in Jackson Heights which has a caterer called No Pork Halal Chinese. On Devon Street, there is also a prominent Indian or Pakistani element. Some Halal meat stores include Sabri Nehari, Pita Inn, Gulshan-e-Devon, Sheeshmahal Dhaba, Sultan Palace, Shan Restaurant, and Cousins. In Boston the main Halal meat stores are Shwarma King and Pasta Pisa. In Detroit the prominent Halal retailers are Al Sultan, Ayse’s Courtyard Café, Khan Kurdhish, Shahi Restaurant, Lion’s Pizza, Cedarland Restaurant, Harmonie Gardens, La Pita, and Al Ameer. These Halal meat stores sell about the same amount of Halal meat as the butcheries, which are just as important meat vendors.

Current suppliers inside the United States are scattered. The most publicized supplier in the United States, Al Safa, is actually situated in Canada. It is endorsed by IFANCA. The relationship between Al Safa and IFANCA facilitates and affects the relationship between supplier and meat regulating company The authenticity of the Halal meat is preserved through certification letters and the proper distribution of Halal meat is assured. The relationship between Al Safa and IFANCA as separate, but complementary agencies[,] minimizes corruption, [assuring]{assuming} the validity of the certification. There are also other Canadian suppliers of Halal meat to the US, but they can only supply meat to a capacity of one moderately sized market, i.e.[,] Buffalo or Syracuse. For this reason major cities such as New York City have a multitude of different suppliers of Halal meat. A major trend in Halal meat supplying in the United States is small scale, private slaughterhouses. Usually these establishments are located in and around major cities. These private slaughterhouses slaughter animals with their own supplies of meat and allow others to use their facilities for a price. Others may pay to use the facilities or they may even barter some of the skins and intestines of the animals for use of the facilities. This system, although running, is surely not meeting the increased demand in today’s Halal meat market.

Another key aspect to the Halal meat trade in America is the distributor’s position. There must be distributors of Halal meat to get the Halal meat efficiently from the suppliers to the butcher shops, local restaurants[,] and neighborhood grocery stores. The main distributors are involved with the major suppliers, especially Al Safa. Major distributors play an important role in serving the individual needs of its constituent markets. In Boston the prominent distributor is City Packing. In New York, particularly in Brooklyn[,] there is Delta Trading Incorporated. Other prominent distributors in New York are the Islamic Food Supply in Jamaica, NebraskaLand in the Bronx, and Patti-Time Food Products in the Bronx. In Detroit there is Paradise Foods. Right outside of Chicago in Cicero there is the biggest distributor of Halal meat in the US, Ziyad Brothers in Cicero (Al Safa 2000). The distribution of Halal meat in America is sufficient for the current population, but when the supplier side increases proportionately to the Muslim Market, the distributors will also have to increase in size and efficiency.

There are controversies over certain slaughter practices in the Halal meat trade in America. Most practices are, however, in accordance with the Quran and Hadith, yet those that are not call for concern. Chicken slaughter is ideally performed by hand. Certain suppliers perform hand slaughter, but this is a slower process and it is not sufficient to meet the demand for chicken meat [by]{of} the current market. The other option to slaughter Halal chicken meat is mechanized slaughter. This slaughter is too fast for proper blessing. A solution postulated is to have a tape-recording of the slaughter blessing played while the chickens are slaughtered on the belt. This practice is questionable in terms of being permissible or Halal. Another controversy is the stunning of animals. This is done with a hammer, stun guns, etc. This practice is also not certain to be Halal.

The American Halal meat trade is due for change. For example, butcheries, more than restaurants, are unstable. The reason they are this unstable is that the competition between them is fierce. Their field is flooded with similar types of Halal butcheries. Also, since their trade is completely dependent on the suppliers that provide them with the meat, they face a problem. There is no one strong and reliable supplier and the supply is fickle and unreliable to meet the demands of a large and demanding Muslim community in America. Another severe hindrance is that the butcheries are managed based on outmoded techniques and are often unaware of computerized spreadsheets and other business software. Most transactions are still conducted by hand and prices are not always fixed. Many customers complain about the inadequate business methods and question their fairness to the customers. Since the prices are not always set and there is no real objectivity from computerized records, the butcher has the ability to easily [overcharge] {overprice the customer.}

The Halal meat trade in America is due for much alteration. It must not just solely follow the systems of foreign countries belonging to Asia and the Middle East since other more efficient models exist. The American trade must go further and raise the Halal meat up to American standards of business professionalism, focusing on standardized pricing and quality, efficient production and availability, and overall reliability. This may seem difficult to do for the traditional Halal meat trade based on an offshore tradition; however, this should be a future goal. First, efficiency should come by having larger, more reliable Halal meat suppliers in America itself. An option of foreign Halal meat may be a viable one, but it should be able to effectively work well with the US Halal meat distributors and retailers. The suppliers should have a stronger and more direct connection with their distributors as well. A complete outgrowth of the supplier to the distribution aspect and taking over the position of the distributor would not necessarily be a bad idea. [[awkward wording and poorly justified -- I think you are calling for vertical integration!]] Although this may cause somewhat of a monopoly, it will be a more efficient way of getting Halal meat to a community that is willing to pay the opportunity cost.[[monopoly is dangerous!]] The outcome, on the whole, is cost effective. Ideally the US regions (East, South, Central, etc.) should each have one major Halal meat corporation; four or five being the total amount of these major Halal meat corporations. Each corporation would cover one of the major regions of the US. This is just one option; there are other methods that can meet the same successful outcome. Instead of just one corporation taking part in the US’s Halal meat market for itself, four or five corporations can compete with each other. They will be large enough to be efficient on a large scale and they will allow for better prices.

However, one must recognize that Halal meat production cannot be run just by purely corporate entities. There must also exist a number of certifying agencies. These organizations must be separate entities from those of the corporations controlling the Halal meat trade. These regulating agencies such as IFANCA, exist today; however, more are needed. If there are several of these companies, competition between them will allow for better results. Also, the need for these companies in America is vital. The formation of several of these organizations will reflect the substantial growth of the Halal meat trade. These plans are just options for what may be done to solve the problems of today’s Halal meat trade; however, they are not the only possible solutions. The Halal meat trade must quickly pass its prenatal stage since the numbers of Muslims in the United States is increasing every year and the demand for Halal meat is increasing exponentially. There are no official industrial publications or academic research on this topic and hence, further research is needed because there is no sufficient data on the American Halal meat industry.

Bibliography  

Afsal, O. (5/2/00). Q & A about Halal Meat. [Personal Communication] Cornell University.  

Al Safa Halal. 2000. Canada’s Finest Al Safa Halal Meat. Canada.: http://www.halalsafa.com/. Accessed March 28.

Australian Federation of Islamic Councils. 2000. The Role of AFIC. Australia.:

http://stoli.one.net.au/~afic_mel/. Accessed March 28.  

Chaudry, M. (5/1/00). American Halal Meat Trade Discussion. [Personal Discussion] Cornell University  

IFANCA. 2000. IFANCA: Islamic Food and Nutritional Council of America.: http://www.halalsafa.com/. Accessed March 28.  

The Muslim Food Board. 2000. Muslim Food Board (UK) Consultancy, Research and Authentication of products for Halaal Consumption. UK.: http://www.halaal.demon.co.uk/. Accessed March 29th