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Norway: Halal reindeer meat to go on sale

A reindeer is pictured on June 4, 2010 in Ny-Alesund in the Svalbard archipelago, Norway (AFP/File, Martin Bureau)

A reindeer is pictured on June 4, 2010 in Ny-Alesund in the Svalbard archipelago, Norway (AFP/File, Martin Bureau)

Oslo — Norway’s first-ever halal reindeer meat will soon make it to the dinner tables of Muslims across Norway and places as distant as Dubai.

Muslims in Norway will be able to follow local Christmas food traditions this year, after a butcher unveiled the country’s first halal reindeer meat.

Vilteksperten, north of Trondheim, a slaughterhouse that specialises in game meat, has slaughtered 105 reindeer according to Muslim law, in cooperation with the Islamic Council of Norway. Harry Dyrstad, owner of the specialist wildlife abattoir , enlisted the help of a certified halal butcher and has 100 reindeer ready to be sent off to the shops.

“It’s the tastiest meat in the world,” said Harry Dyrstad, head of Vilteksperten.

Their reindeer are slaughtered using the same method as for halal meat — the animal is first stunned and then its throat cut and its blood drained out — but the halal method includes a blessing by a religious authority.

Halal reindeer meat is new in Norway, although in 2010 the Russian autonomous region of Yamalo-Nenets reportedly exported 1,000 cans of this product to Qatar.

After invitation from Mr Dyrstad, the Islamic Council of Norway visited the abattoir and has given their seal of approval on the reindeer meat.

Mr Dyrstad is currently in the process of butchering the animals to send them off to shops around Norway, but says he plans on exploring other markets.

The butcher has had interest from as far afield as Dubai, and he is looking forward to bringing reindeer to the previously unexplored Muslim market.. Dyrstad had the idea in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, when the demand for wild reindeer meat dropped, as it was more expensive than farmed.  Mr Dyrstad has also looked into the possibility of curing some of the halal reindeer in order to  introduce ham to the Muslim community.

‘We had the idea one-and-a-half years ago,’ Dyrstad told The Local.

‘We spoke to someone who had some contacts in Dubai, and he said that if you want to sell reindeer meat, it has to be halal, so we had to try.’

‘We got some information that we could produce some ham from the reindeer, so Muslim children can have ham on their sandwiches,’ he said.

He said, “We thought that many people around the world were willing to pay a little bit more to eat a delicious, healthy and nutritious meat”

Norwegian Muslims are the main target for this new product, but halal reindeer meat could also be served in high-end restaurants in Dubai, according to Dyrstad.

Reindeer meat is popular across Scandinavia and is served in many homes as part of Christmas dinner, a tradition in which Norwegian Muslims will now be able to take part in,

‘It is going to be exciting to see how Muslims receive the novelty of reindeer. This is a completely new halal product that Muslims have not had access till before,’ Mehtab Afsar, General Secretary of the Islamic Council of Norway, told Adresseavisen.

“Those who have tried it say it’s the best in the world,” said Mehtab Afsar, secretary general of the Islamic Council of Norway.

“I’m really looking forward to trying it when it arrives in the shops,” he told AFP.

Reindeer is both farmed and wild in Norway and the rest of Scandinavia. The Sami, the indigenous people of northern Scandinavia, have been herding reindeer for centuries and are the group of people more often found still living off reindeer farming.

Mehtab Afsar, General Secretary of the Islamic Council of Norway and one of those who oversaw the slaughter, said he was looking forward to tasting reindeer for the first time.

“This is a brand new halal product that Muslims have not had access to before. I am told that this is a very good meat, but I’ve never tasted it myself,” Dyrstad told told the local newspaper.

Dyrstad’s company, Vilteksperten, may however face competition from Russian reindeer producers.

In 2010, the Yamal Reindeer Company, based in Russia’s Arctic Yamal Nenets region, announced it had produced 1000 cans of halal reindeer meat, which the region’s government planned to offer at a Russian investment conference in Qatar.

Their local language has more than 400 words for reindeer, the meat and products involved in reindeer herding.

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