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‘Hi-tech’ Halal poultry plant a first for UK

£6 million plant set to open after Ramadhan

(October 1, 2004) Sikander Z. Hashmi, eat-halal.com


As it stands now, most of the Halal chickens that land in plates across the UK aren’t processed in state-of-the-art Muslim-owned plants devoted to Halal slaughter.

That will soon change when Gafoor Poultry Products Ltd. of Preston, Lancashire, unveils its new £6 million ($14 million CAD) Halal poultry processing plant.

The gleaming new plant, built on 3 acres of land, will begin pumping out Halal chickens and poultry products after Ramadhan and is said to be the first of its kind in the UK.

Tahir Vaza, the young business manager of the family-owned business, cites market demand as the thrust behind this giant leap for the twenty-five year-old company.

‘The need for expansion was to service the demand in the marketplace and my intention is to have a state-of-the-art killing and added-value further processing plant specifically catered for the Halal Muslim marketplace,’ he explains.

Vaza pegs Halal poultry consumption in the UK at just below 5 million chickens per week. According to him, Gafoor Poultry Products has a current output of close to 100 000 chickens per week, while his competitors (who he refers to as his ‘colleagues’) produce another 250 000 chickens weekly between three plants.

Another reason for the expansion is the new set of European Union regulations that processing plants must soon conform to. These new regulations have been introduced to safeguard consumers following outbreaks of diseases such as avian influenza and BSE. All processing plants in EU member countries must conform to the new standards.

‘The existing facility we have will not meet the new EU directives which are now coming in force,’ says Vaza.

Apart from conforming to European Union directives, the new plant will also meet the strict Halal guidelines of the Halal Monitoring Committee (HMC) of Leicester. In fact, Vaza says that the company has even considered the organization’s input in the designing of the plant.

‘We are liaising with them on a regular basis and therefore applying their input to our designs and ensuring that we can comply 101% with Islamic Shariah Law.’

Vaza is confident that his company can follow through on HMC’s strict Halal guidelines, even with such a large-scale operation.

‘Insha-Allah, we will be able to do the complete operation with the best practice, specifically, we do not intend to stun in our new poultry processing facility,’ states Vaza. HMC does not allow the stunning of animals.

It’s evident that the company, and specifically Vaza, have put tremendous effort into the project and feel very passionately about it.

‘It will be a one of its kind hi-tech poultry processing plant that not very many factories will be able to match in Europe,’ he declares. In fact, Vaza feels it’s safe to call his new plant a ‘one of its kind’ in the Western World.

He’s probably right. There aren’t many state-of-the-art plants devoted solely to full-time production of Halal poultry in North America and Europe.

However, with countries that enjoy the luxury of lower production costs than the UK joining the European Union and subsequently sending their cheap poultry to the country, can such a plant survive in the long run?

Tahir Vaza thinks so.

‘There will always be a demand for Halal produce, specifically one in the communities where people can come and observe that the products are guaranteed Halal,’ predicts Vaza.

‘Secondly there is sufficient room for lots of plants, and hopefully our intention is that if this plant is successful, then we can maybe start a few more of those in the rest of the country similar to what we have here.’

Ensuring that everything at the new plant is done ‘just right’ seems to be a priority for Gafoor Poultry Products, and it’s something Tahir Vaza clearly prides himself in.

‘Everything has been designed to meet the requirement of the end consumer and our mission is basically source guaranteed Halal; that’s from farm to plate, which includes animal additives…processed in a very, very stringent manner where there are no doubts whatsoever with regards to the purity of the product. Our integrity is that basically we want to achieve the best practice for all our people in the Muslim world.’

As Ramadhan quickly approaches, it’ll only be a matter of weeks before the ribbon is cut at the new plant and the inaugural Halal chicken makes its way out of the facility en route to its destination – a plate in the UK, via a Halal meat store.

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