What is Halal Food and Why is it Important?

The Halal food market is growing rapidly, and not just in places like the United Kingdom, or in other European countries, but globally more non-Muslim consumers are seeking food alternatives that are safer, more hygienic and follow strict regulatory conditions. 

Introduction to Halal Products

Nowadays, supermarkets selling halal products can be found in a nearly every neighbourhood, halal foods can be found in restaurants, with a variety of menu options available to both Muslim and non-Muslim diners. As more consumers begin to discover what halal food is, and how halal consumables are prepared, along with a frenzy of halal food trends being shared across social media, it’s easy to get more excited about the future possibilities of the halal market. 

What does halal food mean?

The term “Halal” is a word that derives from Islamic Law, or the Quran, and is an Arabic word meaning “lawful” or “permitted.” Halal food and halal guidelines are not only concerned with dietary restrictions but provides guidance on the treatment of animals, more specifically with how they are slaughtered and prepared for human consumption. 

Islamic Teachings

Due to the nature of Islamic teachings, specific products, meat, and consumables are not permitted, which is often referred to as “haram.” These items include, but are not limited to: 

  • Pork or any pork by-products
  • Birds of prey 
  • Reptiles 
  • Donkeys, mules and horses fanged animals
  • Alcohol or any use thereof in food preparation 
  • Ingredients such as lard and gelatin

How is halal food prepared? 

One of the biggest misconceptions many people tend to have about halal food is the process of preparation. Often, halal meat is not only healthier, but it tends to be cleaner, as it contains less animal blood, and animals are raised on a strict halal-based diet. 

Islamic Law

Islamic Law requires animals to be slaughtered in such a way that it minimises animal suffering and is further processed following strict sanitary standards outlined by local authorities. 

Compared to non-halal food, the meat used in halal meals and dishes tends to be fresher and healthier, as it contains less animal blood, and any harmful ingredients including alcohol, lard, gelatin or pork.

Animals that are bred for slaughter are fed on a strict vegetarian diet, to ensure the preservation of quality in the meat. Any animal that dies due to illness or disease, before being slaughtered is not considered safe for consumption and will be respectfully discarded to avoid cross-contamination. 

What food is halal? 

More recently, halal food has become more accessible in a variety of places due to the growing Muslim population around the world. Halal remains an important aspect of Islamic teachings, and plays an important role in the Muslim community, as this follows their religious beliefs and practises. More importantly, halal certification ensures that more people have access to the necessary products, and avoid haram foods.

Food that can be considered as halal include, but is not limited to:

  • Beef, lamb and poultry are considered halal meat
  • Fish with scales
  • Vegetables, fruits and grains 
  • Milk, or dairy products such as cream
  • Eggs
  • Fresh produce ingredients, without alcohol or ethanol components 
  • Cheese is permitted, however, it should contain halal animal rennet or a safe substitute that still follows the guidance of Islamic teachings.

Halal Ingredients

While these ingredients are an essential part of a halal-based diet, the preparation, including the slaughtering of animals, how dishes are prepared and the utensils used are often also taken into consideration.

Although halal is closely considered with Islamic religion and teachings, it’s important to note that halal food is not strictly available only to Muslims, and many non-Muslim consumers often choose to eat and consume halal food due to its nutritional value, and minimal harmful ingredients. 

How is halal food certified? 

To ensure the integrity of Muslim traditions and beliefs, the halal food market is often highly regulated by a statutory authority. These may be different, depending on in which country you are, but in places such as the United Kingdom, the Halal Monitoring Committee (HMC) oversees the regulation, halal certification and licensing of halal products. 

The Halal Monitoring Commitee

The work conducted by the HMC forms a valuable part of the British Muslim community, as they ensure that all halal meat, products and ingredients available on the public market are genuinely halal. Additionally, the Halal Food Standards Alliance further helps to ensure the consideration of halal foods, halal meat, and other halal principles for the preservation and protection of religious practices for many Muslims across the country.

Currently, there are dozens, if not hundreds of restaurants, grocery stores, butchers, caterers, schools and suppliers that are certified as Halal within the UK. 

According to information provided by the HMC, there are currently 284 halal butchers, 100 halal meat suppliers, 418 restaurants and takeaway joints, and 68 schools Halal certified and regulated by the HMC. 

These resources ensure that all members of the Muslim community, including non-Muslim consumers have access to trusted information on halal certification and that more places can receice a halal certificate. Without the necessary authorities and regulations in place, it would become increasingly challenging to differentiate between what is permitted or not permitted under Islamic Law. 

How big is the halal food market in the UK? 

Over the recent years, the Muslim population in the United Kingdom has experienced significant growth. The most recent census of 2021 revealed that the proportion of people who identify as Muslim has grown by 1.2 million in the last decade. 

Currently, there are more than 3.9 million Muslims now living in the United Kingdom, and they make up roughly 6.5 per cent of the general population in England and Wales, a steady increase from the 4.9% recorded in 2011. 

Non-Muslin Halal Consumers Increasing

However, seeing that more non-Muslim consumers are choosing to purchase and consume halal-based food, due to its nutritional value, the domestic halal food market has witnessed similar growth in recent years.

Data released by the HMC revealed that the Muslim community consumes roughly 20 per cent of local fresh meat produce as of 2020. Additionally, the HMC estimates that roughly 41.6 million chickens are imported each month, 20 per cent or 8.3 million thereof is considered halal. 

Halal Diets

On average, it’s been found that halal diets consume roughly eight times more meat, poultry and produce compared to non-halal diets, making the halal market one of the biggest consumers of fresh produce and meat in the UK as of 2020. 

Final thoughts 

Halal food will continue to experience increasing demand in different parts of the world, as both Muslim and non-Muslim consumers seek safer, hygienic and more halal-focused products. This is an encouraging outlook towards the future for the Muslim community, but more importantly, provides a positive environment under which the halal food market can continue to flourish in the years to come. 


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