What exactly is halal beef? Does it taste better, cost more, and where can you buy it?

Atlantic Beef Products in Albany, P.E.I., said Friday it is now providing halal-certified Island beef, so here are some things you might want to know about halal meat.

1.  It's aimed at Muslim customers

"There has been a steadily growing interest from Muslim consumers, food retailers and food service operators looking for halal beef in Atlantic Canada," said Russ Mallard, President of Atlantic Beef. 

The Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of Canada, the sanctioning body for halal food in Canada, certified the beef plant.

But halal meat is also growing in popularity with non-Muslims who consider the products healthier and more humane.

2. Halal means 'permitted' in Arabic

If a product is certified halal, that means it has been produced in accordance with Muslim law.

Products that can be certified halal include food and beverages, fashion, cosmetics, even banking, tourism and dating

"There's a bit of a ceremonial slaughter ritual that's followed and that is done, then the meat is considered to be halal," Mallard said.  

"I wouldn't suggest it tastes any different at all."

3. Everything is halal unless...

The Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of Canada said on its website "all pure and clean things are considered halal" except:

  • swine and pork.
  • improperly slaughtered animals.
  • alcohol and intoxicants.
  • carnivorous animals, birds of prey, and land animals without external ears.
  • blood.

The council evaluates food products and determines if they've been contaminated with any of the above.

4. It's said to be 'compassionate' 

While the beef plant in Albany is a federally-inspected plant and already kills animals with what are accepted as humane practices, Mallard said there are extra steps in halal slaughtering. 

All cattle being processed are first stunned to become insensible. In halal, a certified Muslim slaughter-man says a prayer over the animal, then cuts its throat with a special knife. 

The plant hired the halal butcher full time especially so it could become certified.

Whether or not halal practices are more humane has come up for debate in Canada the past. Mallard said he considers halal and traditional slaughter methods to be equally humane.      

"When animals are slaughtered in a less compassionate manner, hormones and toxins from fear and shock are released into the respective bloodstreams of the animals; these hormones and toxins find their way into the musculature and taint the aft-consumed meat with unnecessary ingredients," the Islamic council asserts on its website. 

5. The market for halal is huge

Canada has a Muslim population of more than 1 million people, and growing. That's only a fraction of the 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide. 

The global halal industry is estimated to be worth $2.3 trillion US. 

"The Muslim population and the need for halal beef has been continually growing in this region and across the country for quite a long time now," said Mallard. 

Atlantic Beef has been fielding inquiries about halal meat for about the last year, and had training over summer 2015. 

"We've had a lot of interest from everything from everything from retailers to further processors making processed meats that require halal raw materials to make their products, as well as restaurants who are also interested in serving halal to their Muslim customers," he added. 

6. Halal meat will cost more

"We do charge a premium for the products," said Mallard, noting there are extra steps and paperwork that go with the certification.

Right now, the processor is selling the beef to food service and retailers who can re-package it as halal.

One of the major grocery chains in the region with be launching P.E.I.'s halal beef in the coming weeks, starting in areas where there's a significant Muslim population and a demonstrated demand, Mallard said.