Dubai’s government has made a big play of developing a central Halal authority, which aims to become a major certification body for Halal products globally. But Ricardo Joao Santin, vice president of the poultry division at the Brazilian Association of Animal Protein (ABPA) said his members are already able to comply with customers’ Halal demands, and would not expect a new Halal body to change their business practices.
“The problem is, the UAE is saying they want to develop a global Halal mark. We agree with whatever they want – for UAE, we will do whatever they want. If they talk to Saudi, it’s fine for us, to Egypt, it’s fine for us. We don’t want to be involved in religious issues – we can’t say there is some Halal standard that is better than other Halal standards. It’s a religious point,” said Santin.
No cost advantage
He dismissed the idea that a single standard might allow poultry producers to cut costs, saying that producers simply passed on costs to their customers: “It’s not a question of easy or not easy, or more costly or less costly – we just say, if you want us to do this, we will do it. If you want us to improve the Halal controls, have two supervisors instead of one, we will do it, and it will cost you.”
Santin also noted that some customers had particular requirements of their own, and sometimes requested even stricter Halal standards: “Within the UAE, we have clients that say, we want this kind of standard, more than what the local authority demands. And we fulfil this.
“Our issue is to fulfil the standards of the local buyer. This is the approach we are taking. I’ve been in the local authority, I brought the three certification bodies with me, and I asked what we should do to fulfil their requirements. The customer is always right, especially when it comes to religion,” he added.
“Brazil is not an Islamic country, so we don’t discuss or argue about religion – we just say, how do you want us to do this? Ok, this is the cost. If you want us to change the factory to face Mecca, then this is the cost – they pay, and we do it. This is the golden rule for us – we need to fulfil everything. If there is something we can’t fulfil, we’ll say it’s not possible,” said Santin.
High welfare and sustainability
When asked about organic products, he said the market was a niche in the Middle East, and did not expect it to grow significantly – but noted Brazilian producers would be able to produce organic birds if required. Santin said Brazil already has very high welfare standards for poultry, especially compared to other regions in the world.
“Brazil has a lower density of birds in the aviary than free-range production in Europe – we have the space for them to have natural behaviour. Our government has a rule that demands we have these conditions inside the aviary, and to stun birds when they are slaughtered. But there is an exception for religious practices,” he explained, adding that buyers appreciated the complete control over feed and conditions offered by indoor rearing.
Santin also claimed Brazilian poultry has a lower carbon footprint than most other production, and especially compared to the Middle East, even taking shipping into account: “For one tonne of chicken meat in the UK, the carbon footprint is 2.4 – in Brazil, it’s 1.2. If you add the freight, the carbon footprint will be 2. These aren’t Brazilian figures – these are from DEFRA in the UK. The carbon footprint of local fresh birds is much higher than birds from Brazil.”