Halal Food Gains Ground in Kazakhstan

SHAFAQNA - Meeting the growing demand of population in Muslim-majority Kazakhstan, Halal food industry has achieved huge successes over the past decade, with halal food entering the menus of Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

“Prior to 2005, the halal aspect was overlooked but now we are aggressively developing our country’s halal food industry,” Kazakhstan Halal Industry Association (AHIK) chairman Marat Sarsenbayev told Bernama on Monday, June 29.

“Every year, we are seeing more halal food outlets being established… in fact, now 30 percent of the meat available in the market is halal. Even non-Muslims are buying halal products in this country,” he added.

Sarsenbayev said in the past 10 years, the consumption of halal food in the country had grown in tandem with the increase in the Muslim population.

While halal restaurants and cafes were scarce in the capital city of Astana 10 years ago, many have sprung up in recent years.

Halal food has made it as well into the main supermarkets which started offering different types of halal meat, such as horse meat, beef, mutton and camel meat, as well as sausages and poultry.

The number of halal food enterprises in Kazakhstan has grown by leaps and bounds – from only a paltry eight such businesses in 2005, the number swelled to 587 in 2012.

It also has a total of 130 slaughterhouses that conform to halal standards.

“This shows that there’s good potential for the market for halal food, and we want our business community to tap into this,” Sarsenbayev added.

The concept of halal, — meaning permissible in Arabic — has traditionally been applied to food.

Muslims should only eat meat from livestock slaughtered by a sharp knife from their necks, and the name of Allah, the Arabic word for God, must be mentioned.

Muslims do not eat pork and consider pigs and their meat filthy and unhealthy to eat. Alcohol is also totally forbidden for Muslims.

Now other goods and services can also be certified as halal, including cosmetics, clothing, pharmaceuticals and financial services.

Islam is the dominant religion in Kazakhstan, which has a large Christian minority, belonging to the Russian Orthodox Church.

According to the CIA Fact Book, Muslims make up 47 percent of the population, Russian Orthodox 44 percent, Protestant 2 percent and others 7 percent.

Ethnic Kazakhs are historically Sunni Muslims of the Hanafi school of thought.

Islam was brought to the Kazakhs during the 8th century when the Arabs arrived into Central Asia.

Islam initially took hold in the southern portions of Turkestan and thereafter gradually spread northward.

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