Halal food is changing—just like British Muslims
When Shazia Saleem took a recent flight from London to Washington, DC, she requested a halal meal. On her outbound journey she was served a curry; coming back she got the same. “I’m grateful that the halal option is there,” laughs Ms Saleem, a businesswoman, “but it’s 2014–I think we’d be okay with something other than chicken tikka.”
For years Britons hungry for halal food, especially meat, have tended to patronise specialist butchers in areas with large Muslim populations. Diners seeking restaurants that eschew pork and alcohol have mostly had to pick curry houses. But as the tastes of Muslim consumers, especially younger ones, change, so too do the businesses that serve them.
Ready meals are one growing market. Ms Saleem runs I Eat Foods which pumps out halal shepherd’s pie and spaghetti bolognese. Those are a hit among the increasing number of Muslims who, like herself, grew up in Britain, craving the same grub that their non-Muslim friends ate. Willowbrook, an organic halal farm in Oxfordshire, produces bacon from beef and boned, rolled shoulders of lamb—ideal for Sunday roasts.
Halal food is also getting posher. Haloodies (a portmanteau of “halal” and “foodies”) is a brand of neatly packaged halal meats. Unlike many traditional halal butchers, it offers cuts such as fillet steaks. It helps that Muslim shoppers are increasingly concerned about where their food comes from. Halal is about more than just the ritual of slaughter, argues Lutfi Radwan, the farmer at Willowbrook. It is also about the animals’ welfare while they are alive. This is one reason why Ms Saleem avoids factory-farmed meats in her ready meals.
This can be expensive. At TheMeatCo, a restaurant in west London with a separate halal menu and dining area, a T-bone steak is £50. The non-alcoholic Tempranillo at Meat and Shake, a fancy burger joint, is as pricey as the boozy kind elsewhere. But Britain’s Muslims are getting wealthier. The average monthly income of those born locally, with at least one parent born in Britain, is £1,219, compared with £815 for those who arrived aged six or older. And the growing number of converts–estimated at around 100,000–like food that unites their old eating habits and new faith.
Big businesses are recognising this market’s potential. Haloodies meat is sold through Ocado, an online supermarket popular with the middle class. Ms Saleem’s meals are available at large supermarkets. Haute halal is on the up.
*This article was originally published on The Economist print edition on 5 July 2014. Read the original article here.