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A Southland meat company’s move away from halal killings for commercial reasons led to a surprising economic benefit – new business from Christian farmers. Blue Sky Meats operates a processing plant at Morton Mains, for lamb, sheep, bobby calves and goats.
Chairman Graham Cooney said when it was set up in 1987 the plant had the potential to carry out halal killings and did so for a short time. But related costs, including the hiring of halal slaughtermen, made it uneconomical and the practice stopped in the late 1980s, he said.
While the decision might have closed off potential markets, it brought in new business with several Christian farmers from the province choosing to supply them. “A number of farmers decided they would support Blue Sky for that reason. It is a group, it’s not massive, but it is noticeable.”
Most farmers were not concerned about how their stock was killed and processed, or where the meat was exported. But there was a “small minority of farmers” with strong Christian views who did not want meat killed according to Islamic Sharia law.
He stressed the company did not stop halal killings because of demand from Christian farmers, but because it was uneconomical.
“The problem was with a one-chain works you need backup options. It was a commercial decision made because of the cost of slaughtermen. You need to have more than one there at a time – even if you’re only using one – because you need a repalcement if something happens.
“We found the total costs were quite considerable because you have to meet a lot more than just their wages, accommodation and a whole lot of extra costs at the time.” New Zealand is the largest exporter of halal-slaughtered sheepmeat and is a large exporter of halal-slaughtered beef.
At meat plants supplying Muslim customers, animals are slaughtered by Muslim slaughtermen using humane hygienic techniques in accordance with Islamic Sharia.