Comment: Taking up the halal challenge

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With the world’s Muslim population going to be more than a quarter of the world’s population by 2030, New Zealand’s red meat sector needs to take up the challenge, introduce technology and fully explore the opportunities posed by marketing halal products.

A recent presentation in Wellington from the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ), one of the halal-certification bodies for red meat and other products in New Zealand, shows there may be untapped opportunities for many of the New Zealand red meat sector’s co-products for use in leathers, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics elsewhere in the wider halal market (see ‘FTA’).

Moin Khan, FIANZ
Moin Khan, FIANZ head of quality assurance and risk management.

FIANZ has been very active in undertaking plant audits for halal products, according to its head of quality assurance and risk management Moin Khan.

“It is just amazing to see how these plants want to export and acquire halal certification,” he says, suggesting the adoption of blockchain technology will help improve halal products’ traceability and supply chain, such as Fonterra uses for its halal products to China.

Another initiative could be the development of a halal export research “think tank” for forecasting trends, perhaps by the stakeholders, says Khan.

Noting the growth of New Zealand’s halal-certified  exports of red meat to China in recent years, he also suggests periodic Halal conferences might be required in the market, “to understand their needs and expectations,” and could be organised perhaps by all of the involved stakeholders.

The information offered in FIANZ’ Wellington presentation also suggested the sector’s Taste Pure Nature campaign, led by Beef + Lamb NZ Ltd, translates well to Muslim demands. Research for the origin brand was undertaken with consumers and trade customers in the Middle East.

But, the same competitors for New Zealand meat appear in the Muslim world too. Islam is also now starting to consider whether the new cultured meats comply with the requirements of Islamic law or not. No well-known or highly regarded scholars have yet made an announcement on the matter and opinion seems to be divided on the issue in the general Muslim population.

Currently, there are three main and contrasting points of view:  one is that the halal status of cultured meat may be resolved by identifying the source cell and culture medium used in capturing the meat. The argument is that halal cultured meat can be obtained if the stem cell is extracted from an halal slaughtered animal and no impermissible substance (such as blood, serum, alcohol etc) is used or introduced in the process. Another view says that lab-grown meat does not originate from an animal, so it cannot be slaughtered in a halal manner and therefore is not considered as halal meat. A third view simply considers cultured meat to be not desirable (makrooh).

That promises to be a lengthy conversation, but it seems maybe New Zealand’s halal-certified meat’s position is secure with its customers for the time being.

Benchmarking study suggested

Moin Khan points to a 2014 Australian study by the RMIT University School of Business IT and Logistics – ‘Factors influencing the operation of the halal meat supply chain in Australia’ by Mohd Hafiz Zulfakar et al. Out of ten factors shown to influence the operations of the Australian halal meat chain, two – segregation of halal meat to prevent cross-contamination from non-halal elements and selecting appropriately qualified slaughtermen – were seen as the most dominant factors that strongly influence successful halal operations.

Other factors of importance found in the study were: the halal programme; halal understanding, halal governance; halal certification; trust; supplier selection; and religious and social responsibilities.

A similar study done for New Zealand would be a good benchmarking exercise, FIANZ suggests.

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