Halal 'Backlash' Fears Prompt U.S. Grocers To Not Label Meat With Islamic Insignia

Halal turkey cutlets and chicken breasts are displayed in a department of a 100% halal food shop, the Hal'Shop, on August 1st, 2011, in Nanterre, a western suburb of Paris, as the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan begins today in several countries including France. MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images

Halal meat isn't always labeled, and you could be eating it without knowing.

According to a report by Harvest Public Media, some retailers buy halal meat but don't label it as such, as they're concerned that Islamophobic sentiments might drive down sales.

Large retailers sometimes buy from Halal slaughterhouses because that's what type of meat is available. One slaughterhouse may sell to a variety of different stores, some of which want the Halal label to appeal to their Muslim customers, and some of which don't want to include it.

"They may feel it's not necessary to mention that it's halal and, in some cases, they may fear a backlash," Haroon Latif, who researches the U.S. Halal market, told Harvest Public Media.

This can make it trickier for someone who only wants to eat Halal meat to determine which meat to buy. However, some brands list their Halal status online, so it is possible for those who want to spend a little more time determining which meats are appropriate for them to eat.

"The reality of it is some [retailers] are actually concerned about the halal insignia," Superior Farms' vice president of sales Greg Ahart said, according to NPR.

There are several rules that a slaughterhouse must follow to be Halal: The animals must live with clean food and water and fresh air. Farmers cannot mistreat the animals. They have to be healthy and uninjured at the time of death. They cannot be allowed to witness the death of other animals. A practicing Muslim must recite a prayer and face toward Mecca and slit the animals' throats by hand. The animals, before and after death, cannot be in contact with pork products or alcohol.

However, Halal slaughter is sometimes controversial, as more common methods of stunning the animal before death are not allowed. Some believe that slitting an animal's throat without stunning it with a captive bolt gun to the head creates prolonged suffering.

Some slaughterhouses only produce Halal meat, not because they have so many customers demanding it, but because it's easier to only distribute one type of meat rather than having to ensure that it's separate from other types. In the future, the Muslim market may make the labels more popular.