Halal meat

Halal meat is set to get its own assurance scheme

Eblex is launching an assurance scheme for halal meat in a bid to create greater transparency around standards and make it easier for UK producers to export halal products.

The new scheme will initially be rolled out for lamb, which accounts for the majority of halal red meat sold in the UK, with beef to follow later.

Eblex plans to offer assurance options for both stunned and non-stunned slaughter, and will appoint three UKAS-registered certification bodies to audit the schemes.

A consultation on the proposals was launched at a meeting today, and will run until 14 January. Eblex has not yet set a time frame for the scheme’s launch.

“It’s about creating a level playing field for all criteria and being very clear about the technical standards that apply”

Laura Bishop, Eblex

The consultation document outlines proposals for halal assurance both at farm level and in abattoirs, but Eblex said farm-level assurance was unlikely to be mandatory at launch, although it would become so later on. “Where sheep are farm assured and stunned, the products can be secondarily labelled as ‘Red Tractor’ in addition to Halal Assured,” it added.

The halal sector made headlines earlier this year when some halal-certified meat products tested positive for traces of pork DNA during the horsemeat scandal. Quality schemes marketing manager Laura Bishop said Eblex had already been working on its scheme prior to the scandal, but ‘Horsegate’ had highlighted the need for strong standards and traceability. “It’s about creating a level playing field for all criteria and being very clear about the technical standards that apply,” she said.

Although the pork DNA scandal prompted some in the halal sector to call for a ban on multi-species plants being certified halal, Bishop said Eblex planned to allow them, “provided there are strict controls and segregation”.

The UK halal sector is currently policed by a number of privately run certification bodies, which are frequently at odds over standards. Some producers have blamed this lack of a single, uniform standard for UK halal meat for standing in the way of UK meat exports to Asia and the Middle East worth as much as £1bn a year. Making it easier for UK producers to access lucrative new export markets was a key focus for Eblex, and it was hoped the new halal assurance scheme would support the levy body’s general export drive, Bishop said.

As a red meat levy body, Eblex’s halal work will focus on lamb and beef, but Bishop said the British Poultry Council was being kept “in the loop” on the new scheme, in case it was decided to align halal assurance efforts in the future. However, there were no such plans at present, she added.

Consumer research

To support the launch of its consultation this week, Eblex has commissioned focus group and quantitative research with Muslim consumers to better understand what they are looking for when buying halal meat products.

Key insights from the research include:

  • 77% of consumers felt it was very important to have a halal certification logo on pre-packed meat
  • the top three overall considerations when deciding where to shop for meat/poultry are religious compliance, followed by quality and shop cleanliness
  • Halal butchers are the main meat retailer for 60% of respondents; national supermarkets are second, at 23%.