The former method involved cutting an animal’s throat following a Muslim blessing, while under the new method, animals at Nortura’s halal factories will be anaesthetised before slaughter.
The final approval and certification, obtained from Islamic Council Norway, covers all aspects of the newly sanctioned process, which involves euthanising animals.
"Our methods follow all guidelines set down by the Koran and the Norwegian Food Safety Authority (Mattilsynet). As long as the animal has heart activity, it is considered alive," said Nortura spokesperson Elin Ytterdahl Tohje. "This is our agreement with Islamic Council Norway."
Halal meat remains a fringe segment of Nortura’s total animal slaughtering and production operations, accounting for 1.3% of sheep and 1.5% of poultry processed through its factories.
In Norway, Nortura markets halal meat under the brand name Alfathi. Within the Alfathi brand are pizza, hamburgers, meat slices and wiener sausage products. The company has seen a steady increase in demand for, and sales of, halal foods, in line with Norway’s growing population of Muslims.
For slaughtering purposes, Nortura adheres to the Islamic tradition that requires a Muslim to complete the process and that the animal’s head must face the Qibla (direction of prayer towards Mecca). The animal must be blessed with a prayer of gratitude at the moment of slaughter. Under the original method, the average time between the stunning of the animal and the slaughter was around 20 seconds.
"The important element for us is that halal meat must dutifully follow strict slaughtering rules. Nortura’s new procedure of euthanisation does not breach our traditions," said Mehtab Afsar, secretary general of Norway’s Islamic Council, which represents some 80,000 Muslims resident in Norway.
"A uniform method of slaughter for halal meat is being used throughout Nortura’s production system. The only difference between conventional meat and halal meat is that a Muslim, who is approved by the Islamic Council, will reads a prayer of gratitude for the animal before it is slaughtered," said Tohje.
Different slaughter methods are currently used for various animals in the halal slaughtering process. Beef cattle receive a bolt to the brain while an electric shock is applied to sheep and lambs. Poultry are euthanised by gas.
There is a growing market in Norway for halal reindeer meat, although this is not a product produced by Nortura currently. The main suppliers are smaller-sized and artisan meat producers.