Halal, an Arabic term for “permissible,” means a lot more than “no pork or alcohol.” For example, meat is halal only if the animal is blessed in the name of Allah and then slaughtered facing Mecca.
Industry experts say more and more Muslims are choosing to be observant, fueling demand for halal products. Also spurring growth in the halal market are non-Muslims who associate it with safer, cleaner, and healthier foods.
Even McDonald’s restaurants around the world, including two in Michigan, sell halal burgers and chicken nuggets. The Swiss multinational Nestle, which earned more than $3.5 billion from the sale of halal products last year, peddles halal pastry and pizza dough. And British grocery chains Tesco and Sainsbury’s devote special shelving to halal items at their stores.
In the United States, home to as many as 8 million Muslims, the market for halal foods has undergone a spectacular surge of about 20 percent to 30 percent per year, said Jalel Aossey, a board member of Islamic Services of America, a Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based halal certifier.
Muhammad Chaudry, president of the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America in Park Ridge, Ill., a large certifier of manufacturers producing halal products, said they would certify 1,000 companies this year, compared with 330 companies in 2002.
“The growth in demand is coming from everywhere, including non-Muslim groups of consumers,” he said. “There are many Asians here who are used to eating halal back home and so they want to eat it again.”
Demand is greatest in the places where the most Muslims are clustered —- New York City, Houston, Detroit, and the state of Georgia.
“If you are searching for halal meat you will likely find it in many urban areas,” said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights and advocacy group in Washington, D.C.