Halal consumption increasingly crucial to UK sheep industry

Halal lamb and mutton sales will be increasingly important to the UK sheep market as the country’s Muslim population rises.

Sheepmeat retail sales have fallen by a third in 10 years according to a report by AHDB Beef & Lamb.

See also: English lamb image at risk because of over-finished stock

Muslims account for more than 20% of UK sheepmeat consumption (24% of lamb and 16% of mutton) despite making up just 4.6% of the population.

While the UK population has increased 3% since 2011, conservative estimates indicate the Muslim population has risen 5.6% in the same period to more than three million people, helping to slow the decline in sheepmeat sales. 


Cheaper mutton, traditionally unpopular among UK consumers is also purchased disproportionately by Muslims due to its affordability and suitability for Asian cooking.

Total sales of fresh and frozen lamb have plummeted 35.6% since 1995 to 845,000t but are up 17.4% on the lows of 2011.

Sales could wane within next generation

A 2011 AHDB Beef & Lamb report showed that strict halal consumption patterns tended to relax across second and third-generation Muslims.

While 94% of first-generation Muslims eat only halal meat, the figure declines to 90% and 81% for second and third-generations according to the report.

With a disproportionately young Muslim population in the UK, 33% are under 15 years old compared with a national average of 19%, the reliability of halal demand could wane when the next generation become household shoppers.

The report said this presents both an opportunity and a problem, as to whether these consumers will continue to buy non-halal British lamb or switch to other sources of protein such as poultry.

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