Halal products represent one of the fastest growing segments of U.S. beef exports. Halal certification, which indicates that products have been processed and prepared according to Islamic guidelines, is required for export to most markets in the Middle East, as well as to Indonesia and Malaysia. But the popularity of halal beef is also growing is some areas in which halal certification isn’t required for entry, but is simply in high demand due to customer preference.
Sabrina Yin, U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) director for the ASEAN region of Southeast Asia, oversees Indonesia and Malaysia for USMEF, where halal certification is strictly required. But Yin says demand for halal beef is also strong in several other Southeast Asian markets, even though it’s not required for entry.
“Indonesia and Malaysia are halal countries – definitely all beef going there must be halal,” Yin explains. “But, halal beef is also popular in countries like Singapore, which has quite a good-sized Muslim population and a growing number of tourists from the Middle East. That’s why a lot of fast-food outlets in Singapore will go exclusively with halal beef, so that they can capture this market. McDonald’s and Burger King – all these are using halal products. So in order to serve Singapore’s fast-food area sector with beef, you must go with halal product.”
Yin also notes that Thailand, especially the southwestern region bordering Malaysia, is a prime destination for halal beef. Even specific regions in the Philippines, a country where the population is estimated to be 90% Christian and 80% Roman Catholic, demand halal beef.
“Some southern regions are heavily Muslim and people are looking for halal product,” Yin says. “The Sulu islands, as well as some other southwestern provinces, have strong Muslim populations and a close commercial relationship with Indonesia.”
While mainland China is currently closed to U.S. beef, halal beef products are also popular there, according to Joel Haggard, who is based in Hong Kong as USMEF’s senior vice president for the Asia Pacific region.
“It’s very interesting that most beef slaughtered in China is halal,” Haggard says. “There is definitely a growing halal market in China, and so most of the big beef plants in China are halal. You see the halal certification logo everywhere, even though it’s not a requirement.”
Even in the Western Hemisphere, demand for halal beef is growing rapidly in some markets. With most of Canada’s recent population growth coming by way of immigration, halal products are increasingly popular in that market. The same is true for some Caribbean markets.
“Trinidad and Tobago are probably the best examples of a Caribbean market in which a lot of the beef imported is halal,” says Elizabeth Wunderlich, USMEF Caribbean representative. “Because of its history and diversity, and the manner in which it was settled, the island of Trinidad is definitely a popular destination for halal items.”