The use of halal meat processing in western countries is often mired in controversy. Preconceived notions combined with a lack of knowledge surrounding the concept of “halal” can create a wealth of misunderstandings that more often than not, have a negative impact on our communities as a whole.
Let’s take a look at the facts.
Halal means “permissible” in Arabic, and originates from religious rules set out in the books of the Islamic faith: the Qu’ran and the Hadith. It can refer to any aspect of life referenced by the teachings of Islam and is not isolated to meat alone.
Preparing animals for halal slaughter means placing a great importance on the humane treatment of the animal beforehand. For example, water must always be offered to the animal before slaughter and it should not be slaughtered when hungry. The knife should be hidden from the animal, and slaughtering done out of sight of the other animals. Animals should be killed in a comfortable way, and any unnecessary suffering avoided. Finally, the animal must be slaughtered with the use of a sharp knife that cuts due to sharpness rather than pressure, and it must be re-sharpened after every slaughter. Skinning or cutting of any part of the animal is not allowed before the animal is completely dead.
“[Halal] means you make sure the knife is sharp and that when you do the slaughter, you do the job as quick as you can so you do not torture that animal. At the same time, what you are doing, is you are thanking your lord for allowing you take a life from another living creature for your own sustaining”, Yusuf Abdulrehman, the owner of Halal Meat Centre & Specialty Foods in Winnipeg, tells CountryGuide in an interview last year.
Halal slaughter is a very conscientious method of meat preparation that adds an extra layer of care, hygiene and cognizance to the process.
At SunGold Meats, we ensure each animal is gently restrained and carefully stunned before slaughter in order to prevent any pain or discomfort for the animal. Immediately prior to slaughter we use electrical stunning which produces instantaneous, painless unconsciousness inducing a grand mal epileptic seizure. Highly trained staff monitor stunning effectiveness of every lamb.
We are inspected twice per year by Halal certification authorities and according to feedback, are considered among the best in humane management. We firmly believe that our Halal accreditation and the dedicated focus it brings to humane slaughter provides us with a more humane, respectful and mindful process. Temple Grandin is a leading expert in the area of animal welfare and a great resource for meat plants such as ours. We refer to her research and recommendations, particularly in the area of humane handling and slaughter.
Why is halal certification important?
Because Canada is a proudly diverse and inclusive nation, it is very important to allow groups of different religious faiths to follow their lifestyle choices and be aware of any dietary restrictions they might have. In this sense, halal certification is similar to any type of food certification and audit system. Kosher, gluten-free, organic, non-GMO, or halal, whatever the case might be, it’s important to help Canadian consumers make informed decisions about their food.
“We were looking at how to grow our business, asking how were we going to strengthen our business and researching the food service and retail landscape… consumers’ requirements, consumers’ taste, consumers’ interests,” says Miles Kliner, SunGold’s general manager. “So in a nutshell, when you do all that research you put together that information… one thing that was very apparent, is that the [demographics] of our country [are] changing and growing, and there is an opportunity to serve that market.”
It should also be noted there is a growing number of Canadian consumers who are not Muslim that are opting for Halal products. According to Canadian Grocer Magazine, “the concept of halal has extended far beyond a religious choice, also attracting consumers who are environmentally conscious (and) health conscious.” Fast-food chains like KFC, Popeyes and Nandos have all started adding halal options to their menus, while The Halal Guys, a fast-food franchise that began as a food cart in Manhattan, has already opened a location in Toronto last year.
A second important reason lies in international trade. The global halal food trade is estimated at least $1.75 trillion annually, creating a highly lucrative opportunity for the Canadian meat industry. If companies like SunGold Meats, one of Canada’s largest lamb and goat processors, want to export to these rapidly growing markets, it is increasingly important to ensure our products are halal certified.
How do Canadian companies become halal-certified?
There are several different agencies in Canada that provide halal certification. However, the process is largely the same.
In order to become Halal-certified in Canada, an audit of the production facility is conducted to review the production process for products, evaluate ingredients, and assess the sanitation aspects of the production lines. Once registered and certified, the certifying body authorizes the use of the their halal symbol on product labels.
SunGold Meats works with ISNA® Canada (Islamic Society of North America). Since 1988, ISNA® Canada has been providing Halal Certification Services (HCS) to the Muslim communities in North America and around the world. All SunGold products are halal-certified and display the ISNA Halal logo.