North Americans’ growing appetite for halal and kosher foods, in particular specialized beef products, is an untapped market for Manitoba farmers, according to a new report commissioned by the province.
A sizable and increasing Muslim population in Canada, now estimated at about one million people, a population seven times that large in the U. S., and more non-religious consumers opting to purchase meat prepared according to these ancient traditions is driving consumption, according to the report commissioned by Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives (MAFRI).
The report, prepared by consultant, Interpoc Inc., estimates Canada’s halal beef market is presently worth $80 million annually.
Meanwhile the kosher beef market, serving about half a million Jews and an untold number of non-Jews, is estimated at $130 million.
“The halal and kosher markets have displayed aggressive and continuous growth respectively,” the report says, adding that “Manitoba producers can envision a growing segment of opportunities…”
Yet those opportunities go unrealized, even here at home, at the moment.
MAFRI business development specialist Jeff Fidyk said it’s a struggle for this province’s estimated 10,000 Muslims and another 15,500 Jews to put any fresh, certified halal or kosher meat on their dinner tables.
Some Muslim retailers buy direct from farmers and arrange for the animals to be slaughtered at provincial plants in accordance with halal requirements, but overall there’s a dearth of fresh meat available, Fidyk said.
“Right now there is absolutely no fresh kosher meat in this province,” he said.
“Everything is brought in from out of province or out of country. And the problem with that is that it’s frozen.”
Kosher and halal are ancient food traditions which specify species type permitted for consumption and also lays out slaughter requirements in accordance with Jewish or Islamic laws. (see sidebar)
There is nothing exceptional required of farmers producing animals for this market, notes Fidyk, noting that the value-added of kosher and halal is all at the processing level.
To capture value from this market, farmers supplying animals would need to form a value chain, he added.
The report details many of the challenges as well as the opportunities posed in trying to tap markets outside the province and in the U. S., noting issues such as logistics, exchange rates, country-of-origin labelling, and pre-existing competition, describing the North American supply pipeline as “currently dominated by very few, large-size operations that completely meet consumer demands.”
But it also points to the limited availability of fresh product in small butcher shops across the country, and growing desire among consumers for product innovation.
Therein lies the opportunity for new suppliers, said Fidyk adding that the first point of entry for Manitoba producers interested in pursuing would be to start meeting local demand.
Manitoba’s halal meat sales are currently estimated at about $3 million annually.
“It’s not huge,” he said, but added that it is by developing local business relationships that contacts in wider markets can be made.
The halal beef market nationwide is estimated at $130 million while the total meat market, including goats, lamb and poultry, is pegged at $214 million.
According to the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America (IFANCA), 90 per cent of America’s Muslims would purchase only meat that has been slaughtered by a halal-certified butcher if it were widely available.
“There is an attractive opportunity available for a Manitoba producer and we would support any company that steps up to serve the Muslim community with appropriately certified and reasonably priced high-quality halal meat products,” the president of the Canadian Islamic Chamber of Commerce Asim Ashique stated in a government news release.
MAFRI will hold an information session later this fall for producers interested in hearing more details, Fidyk said, adding that they also hope to spread the word to all commodity and food product makers through other info sessions with the Manitoba Food Processors Association.
In a news release MAFRI Minister Stan Struthers said “while the study focuses on the opportunity for beef, similar substantial opportunities exist for lamb, goats and poultry.”