Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Religion, regulation, consumptionGlobalising kosher and halal markets$

John Lever and Johan Fischer

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781526103642

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9781526103642.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM MANCHESTER SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.manchester.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Manchester University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in MSO for personal use. Subscriber: null; date: 26 September 2021

Introduction: global kosher and halal markets

Introduction: global kosher and halal markets

Chapter:
(p.1) Introduction: global kosher and halal markets
Source:
Religion, regulation, consumption
Author(s):

John Lever

Johan Fischer

Publisher:
Manchester University Press
DOI:10.7228/manchester/9781526103642.003.0001

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explains what modern kosher and halal production, trade and consumption are. More specifically the chapter introduces religious consumers as well as the relationship between globalised markets, production, regulation and audit culture. The chapter ends with reflections on methodology and organisation of the book.

Keywords:   Kosher, halal, production, trade, consumption, regulation, audit culture, methodology

Over the last two decades or so the global markets for kosher and halal food, particularly meat, have grown rapidly. Kosher is a Hebrew term meaning ‘fit’ or ‘proper’ and halal is an Arabic word that literally means ‘permissible’ or ‘lawful’. This book explores the emergence and expansion of global kosher and halal markets with a particular focus on the UK and Denmark. This is the first book of its kind drawing on contemporary empirical material to explore kosher and halal comparatively at different levels of the social scale, such as individual consumption, the marketplace, religious organisations and the state. During this period, kosher and halal markets have become global in scope, and states, manufacturers, restaurants, shops, certifiers and consumers around the world are faced with ever stricter and more complex kosher and halal requirements – most clearly exemplified by Jewish and Muslim groups’ call for kosher and halal certification by third-party certification bodies. Hundreds of kosher and halal certifiers have emerged around the world and thousands of manufacturers, restaurants, shops and products have been certified. While kosher and halal requirements are comparable there are also many differences, and the book discusses how these similarities and differences affect consumption, production and regulation. The book is based on extended periods of research carried out among manufacturers, shops, Jewish/Muslim organizations, certifiers and consumers in the UK and Denmark, where kosher and halal are of particular significance. Empirically, the book compares the major markets for kosher/halal in the UK with those in Denmark, where kosher/halal are important to smaller groups of religious consumers. While religious slaughter without stunning is permitted in the UK, this is not the case in Denmark. Moreover, we explore linkages between the two countries with respect to exports of meat as well as non-meat products; for example, during fieldwork in Manchester we found Danish kosher butter on sale. In addition to the contemporary empirical material, we also draw on and update materials the authors have collected over many years.

Since the end of World War II, the kosher market has consolidated in many places within the Jewish diaspora, as new generations of migrants have sought to maintain traditional practices in new locations (Lytton 2013). While the (p.2)

Introduction: global kosher and halal markets

Figure 1 Danish kosher butter in Manchester

Jewish population is diminishing as a proportion of the global population, it is also increasing worldwide and it currently stands at around 14 million (JPPI 2015; Kooy 2015). The global demand for kosher products has been growing steadily, and many non-religious consumers now view kosher as a healthy food option: in the US over 60 per cent of kosher food consumption is linked to non-religious values associated with health and food quality. Globally there are estimated to be around 25 million kosher consumers and in 2008 sales of kosher foods in the US totalled US$12.5 billion (Mintel 2009). Kosher is one of the oldest food certification systems in the world (Campbell et al. 2011) and despite widespread acceptance of common practices there are many kosher certification and standard-setting bodies. The Orthodox Union (OU) is perhaps the best-known global kosher certification body, but there are many other national, regional and local rabbinical authorities and Jewish courts of law offering kashrut (Jewish religious dietary laws) services.

The market for halal food has also grown rapidly over recent decades. The value of the halal food market alone has been estimated at around US$632 billion annually (see Bergeaud-Blackler et al. 2015), and with the Muslim population projected to increase globally from 1.6 billion to 2.2 billion by 2030 the potential benefits to be accrued are vast. The market is expected to grow by more than 100 per cent in a number of European and North American countries (p.3) and the demand for certified halal meat products is predicted to expand exponentially (Miller 2009). Over the last three decades, Muslim majority states in Southeast Asia, most notably Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore, developed the first halal standards and certification regimes, primarily for internal and latterly for external markets (Fischer 2011, 2015a).

The continuing expansion of the halal market over the last decade has created many opportunities for non-Muslim counties to export halal meat into Muslim countries (Lever and Miele 2012; Miele 2016) and this has led to a proliferation of certifying bodies to assure Muslim consumers. At the same time, governments in a number of other Muslim countries have started to offer certification and accreditation services, including the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia: significantly, many of these large, state-run bodies do not recognise each other. This continues to create tension, and certification and accreditation for the export of raw materials into Muslim countries is now oft en overseen by large private-sector accreditation bodies, including, most notably, the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America (IFANCA) and its sister company, the Halal Food Council of Europe (HFCE).

While kosher and halal requirements are comparable, there are also many differences and the book discusses how these similarities and differences affect consumption, production and regulation. The research question addressed in this book is: What are the consequences of globalising kosher and halal markets? We argue that the similarities and differences between kosher and halal consumption, production and regulation in different national contexts are not well understood. We argue further that to better understand global kosher and halal markets they need to be explored at different levels of the social scale. For example, as we shall see, many if not most of our informants are unaware of the extent to which enzyme production (Chapter 3) has undergone kosher/halal regulation over the last two decades. Paradoxically, kosher/halal-certified companies and kosher/halal certification bodies will argue that kosher/halal regulations are put in place to meet consumer-driven demands, but as we will show there is tension between these levels of the social scale in terms of understanding and practice.

What are modern kosher and halal production, trade and regulation?

Kashrut and kosher law (halacha) include a number of prohibitions such as a ban on pork, the mixing of milk and meat and a prescribed method of slaughter:

Any animal that has true hoofs, with cleft s through the hoofs, and that chews the cud – such you may eat … And the swine – although it has true hoofs, with the hoofs cleft through, it does not chew the cud: it is impure for you.

(Lev. 11:3, 11:7)

(p.4) Thou shalt not seethe a kid in its mother’s milk.

(Exod.34:26; Deut.14:21)

You shall not kill of thy heard and thy flock which the Lord hath given you, except as I have commanded you.

(Deut.12:21)

Meat only qualifies as kosher if the animal of origin is slaughtered using appropriate shechita methods as interpreted through rabbinic commentaries and customary practices. Three key principles must be followed at all times (Lytton 2013). A qualified Jewish slaughterer – or shochet (pl. shochetim) – with the necessary skills and understanding of the laws and requirements of shechita must conduct the act of slaughter. Shechita must also be carried out with a razor-sharp blade on a special knife –a chalaf – in order to minimise the risk of damage to the body of the animal being slaughtered. And the knife must be well maintained to avoid bad practice. In addition to food, kosher is also widely used to designate the ‘rabbinic properness’ – that food is fit, proper and ready to consume, for example – or personalised understanding of a wide range of objects, products, activities, ideas and institutions (Ivry 2010: 662). Some of the points below are from the book Kosher Food Production (Blech 2008), which many companies use as a handbook for kosher production. Kosher law is ultimately the application of a system of religious precepts and beliefs that govern the types of foods that people of the Jewish faith eat. This system is based on a number of verses found in the Bible, rabbinic biblical exegesis, ordinances as presented in the Talmud (the written record of the oral law as redacted in the fifth century) and the writings and decisions of rabbinic authorities (Blech 2008: xxiii). Central concepts in kosher laws are related to acceptable plants and species of animals. Other important concerns are rennin, gelatine, lactose, sodium caseinate (a protein produced from casein in skimmed milk), vitamins, eggs, grape products, fruits, vegetables and Passover (Pesach, a major Jewish festival that commemorates the exodus from Egypt) items (Regenstein and Regenstein 1979).

A large and growing body of literature explores kosher from diverse perspectives. Some studies are basic introductions to kosher for food scientists and processors (Regenstein and Regenstein 1979; Blech 2008). Other studies demonstrate how these laws can be implemented in the food industry (Regenstein and Regenstein 1988). Some articles on kosher also discuss halal laws (Regenstein and Chaudry 2003a, 2003b) and their implications for biotechnology and genetic engineering. Another type of study deals with how diverse groups of Jews in the global diaspora negotiate kosher principles and practices. For example, dietary practices provide a common symbolic system through which the increasingly heterogeneous notions of Jewish identity in Denmark can be expressed, and one way to reinforce one’s Jewish identity is by keeping kosher (Buckser 1999). Similarly, for Jews in suburban Canada keeping kosher signified the creation of a Jewish lifestyle, building religious observances and practices (Diamond 2000, 2002). Among Jews in Brazil kosher (p.5) observance and practices help maintain identity vis-à-vis other ethnic groups, but kosher is also a contested question that marks the diversity present in the Jewish community (Klein 2012). These studies show that many Jewish groups are fastidious about their everyday kosher consumption and this point has reinforced regulation of global kosher production and regulation.

Another group of studies shows the increased significance of kosher regulation from the 1990s onwards, arguing that non-Jewish food industry management may understand how kosher laws specifically affect their own product without understanding the religious significance that they hold for kosher consumers and rabbis. In effect, as kosher proliferated and was lift ed it out its traditional religious base, calls for increased market regulation (Regenstein and Regenstein 1991) and rabbinic – industry cooperation (Regenstein and Regenstein 1990) increased to address concerns about misuse and fraud (Regenstein and Regenstein 1999). The growing market for certified kosher foods offers opportunities for the expansion of markets for existing products and scope for the development of new products for particular market niches, while modern scientific methods such as genetic engineering play an increasingly important role in certification (Regenstein and Regenstein 1991). A study by Lytton (2013) shows that the US kosher market is an example of successful private-sector regulation in an era of growing public concern over the government’s ability to ensure food safety. From the 1990s onwards the ‘Big Five’ kosher certification agencies – the Orthodox Union (OU), OK Kosher Certification (OK), Kosher Certification and Supervision (KOF-K), Star-K (Kosher Certification) and the Chicago Rabbinical Council (CRC) – have largely dominated the global kosher market.

Similarly, a study of the implications of switching from non-kosher to kosher wine production in Israel shows that crossing the kosher categorical boundary exposes these producers to experience-based penalties that are reflected in lower product quality ratings (Roberts et al. 2010). Another study (Campbell et al. 2011) demonstrates that although neoliberalism has opened up new spaces for audit activity, older political and social dynamics operating around food audits have a much longer history.

Important issues in the literature on kosher and halal concern how regulation in the form of certification, legislation and inspections was tightened as a response to increased consumer awareness among Muslim and Jewish groups on a global scale. The proliferation of religious production meant that it was no longer exclusively Muslims or Jews who were in charge of production and this strengthened the need for regulation by trustworthy certifying bodies. Even if there is a large and diverse body of literature on kosher and halal in existence, there is no study of modern and global kosher and halal in the context of how manufacturers, shops and consumers comply with rising religious requirements. In this book there is a distinct element of political economy present in the way in which kosher and halal in complex ways link the different (p.6) levels of the social scale such as individual consumption, the marketplace, religious organisations and the state.

Halal literally means ‘lawful’ or ‘permitted’. Industrial players, merchants and some Muslim scholars involved in halal trade and standardisation have based their halal food rulings on statements from selected verses from the Qur’an such as:

Allah makes good things lawful to them and bad things unlawful. (7: 157)

You who believe, eat the good things We have provided for you and be grateful to God, if it is Him that you worship. (2: 172)

He has only forbidden you what dies of itself and blood and flesh of swine and that over which any other name than that of Allah has been invoked, but who ever is driven to necessity, not desiring nor exceeding the limit, then surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. (2: 173)

According to these passages, halal is that which is beneficial and not detrimental to Muslims. A number of conditions and prohibitions must be observed. Muslims are expressly forbidden to consume carrion, spurting blood, pork and foods that have been consecrated to any being other than God himself: these substances are called haram (‘unlawful’ or ‘forbidden’). The lawfulness of meat depends on how it is obtained. During ritual slaughter, dhabh, animals should be killed in God’s name by making a fatal incision across the throat, with the blood being drained as fully as possible. Among Muslim groups and individuals, the question of the stunning of animals prior to slaughter is highly contested. While some Muslims only consider meat from non-stunned animals to be halal, for many others it is lawful to consume meat prepared by all People of the Book (Jews and Christians as well as Muslims) and they thus accept that stunning is part of modern and ethical food production.

Sea creatures and locusts are considered halal. Because the sea is seen to be pure in essence, all marine animals, even if they have died spontaneously, are halal. Despite the fact that they are not mentioned in the Qur’an, land creatures such as predators, dogs and, in the eyes of some jurists, donkeys are haram. What is more, crocodiles, weasels, pelicans, otters, foxes, elephants, ravens and insects have been condemned by the ulama (Islamic scholars). Oft en some of these animals are seen as makruh or detestable and thus not halal (Denny 2006: 278). Differences also exist between jurists of the different schools of Islamic jurisprudence (for example, Hanafi, Maliki, Hanbali and Shafi’i) around halal understanding and practice. Another significant Islamic prohibition relates to wine and any other alcoholic drink or substance, all of which are haram, whatever the quantity or substance (Denny 2006: 279) – though alcohol has become a highly controversial question in divergent halal zones. With the advent of Islam, ancient negative attitudes toward pigs and pork were reinforced. Inspired by Jewish law, the Prophet Muhammad banned the flesh of pigs as the only animal to be prohibited, and in the Qur’an, the ban is repeated (p.7) several times (Simoons 1994: 32). In effect, Muslims were distinguished from their Christian adversaries (Simoons 1994: 33). Some Muslim groups came to abhor pigs and pork to such an extent that everything touched by them was regarded as contaminated and worthless (Simoons 1994: 33). Under Western colonialism, pig abhorrence declined in many parts of the world, only to increase again with the end of European colonial rule aft er World War II, and especially with Islamic revivalism (Simoons 1994: 36).

The understanding and practice of halal requirements vary among countries and companies producing and importing halal food. This is the point made in the book Halal Food Production (Riaz and Chaudry 2004: vii). This book by two US scholars is a popularised guide to producing and marketing halal (foods) for professionals in an expanding global food market. To our knowledge, this is the only book of its kind and it is widely used by companies (see, for example, in Chapter 3, below, the section on the enzyme manufacturer Novozymes) worldwide that try to understand and comply with the current transformation of halal and it is a unique piece of empirical material. Modern halal cannot be understood simply as part of a stable taxonomy. In addition to halal and haram, doubtful things should be avoided, that is, there is a grey area between the clearly lawful and the unlawful (Riaz and Chaudry 2004: 6–7). The doubtful or questionable is expressed in the word mashbooh (Riaz and Chaudry 2004: 7), which can be evoked by divergences in religious scholars’ opinions or the suspicion of undetermined or prohibited ingredients in a commodity. Hence, far more abstract, individual and fuzzy aspects of context and handling are involved in determining the halalness of a product. The problem in certifying food and other products with regard to these substances is that they are extremely difficult to discover. The interpretation of these mashbooh areas is left open to Islamic specialists and state institutions such as the Islamic Development Department of Malaysia (JAKIM), Majelis Ulama Indonesia (Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI)) and the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS). In the rapidly expanding global market for halal products, Southeast Asia holds a special position, that is, in Malaysia and Singapore state bodies certify halal products, spaces (shops, factories and restaurants) as well as work processes. In shops around the world, consumers can find state halal-certified products from these countries that carry distinctive halal logos. Globally, companies are affected by the proliferation of halal that to a large extent is evoked by Southeast Asian nations such as Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei and Thailand (Fischer 2015a).

At the end of the day, the underlying principle behind the prohibitions remains ‘divine order’ (Riaz and Chaudry 2004: 12). Knowledge of the above requirements is, of course, essential to innovative companies that try to establish themselves in an expanding global halal market. The increased demand for halal products by conscientious and educated Muslim consumers has urged developed countries to export halal products. In this way, developed (p.8) countries have entered a market that was previously dominated by Muslim countries. Moreover, the proliferation of Western franchised food has changed the international food market and subjected it to new standards of halal certification.

In countries such as Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia even paper/plastic labels and printing on food are seen as problematic. Glue used for labels as well as edible printing and dyes used directly on food may contain non-permissible ingredients. Some halal certifying bodies in importing countries feel that such seepage or cross-contamination may violate the halal status of food. Muslim dietary rules assumed new significance in the twentieth century, as some Muslims began striving to demonstrate how such rules conform to modern reason and the findings of scientific research. Another common theme in the revival and renewal of these dietary rules seems to be the search for alternatives to what are seen to be Western values, ideologies and lifestyles and this is reflected in globalised halal.

Religion, regulation and globalising religious markets

In 2000, as kosher and halal were globalising and standardising, a seminal article discussed capitalism at the new millennium as ‘millennial capitalism’: capitalism in its ‘messianic, salvific, even magical manifestations’ (Comaroff and Comaroff 2000: 293). In many ways the present study fits together with central points concerning religion and markets discussed in that article. Occult economies are economies with a material aspect based on the effort to conjure wealth, or to account for its accumulation by appealing to ‘techniques that defy explanation in the conventional terms of practical reason’ and ethical aspects transmitted in moral discourses generated by production of value through ‘magical means’ (Comaroff and Comaroff 2000: 310). We argue that both kosher and halal markets can be conceptualised as forms of millennial capitalism that incorporates kosher/halal certification bodies, companies and consumers – what we refer to as different levels of the social scale.

Most scholarship on moral economies or religious markets focuses on the compatibility of markets and religious practices. For instance, Weber (2001) understood the origins of modern capitalism to be religious ethics. More recent work explores religious moralities as formative of ‘market cultures’ (Hefner 1996) or ‘spiritual economies’ (Rudnyckyj 2010). Rudnyckyj and Osella (2017) demonstrate the increased stress on calls for reforms of financial markets and for the consideration of moral values in economic practice, that is, how market practices engender new forms of religiosity that again shape economic actions.

Much of this research overlooks the fact that over the last couple of decades or so moral economies have been subjected to new forms of (p.9) regulation and standardisation. Only recently have these markets become global in scope, and states, manufacturers, restaurants, shops, certifiers and consumers around the world are faced with ever stricter and more complex requirements within a framework of moral economies. Global kosher and halal markets are examples of modern religious or moral economies that are embedded in social action, for example production, trade, consumption and regulation in organisations and networks (Granovetter 1985). Thus, in this book we try to move beyond more classical and textual studies of the way in which Jews and Muslims conceptualise ‘us’ and ‘them’ through food (Freidenreich 2014) by studying kosher and halal in an era of globalisation. We also move beyond the compatibility of religion and economy to explore modern religious forms of regulation in the UK and Denmark as ‘secular’ case countries.

Understandings and practices of kosher/halal in these two countries are framed by ways in which ‘the secular’ offers signs of quite different trajectories and meanings. In other words, our focus is on the ways in which Jewish and Muslim consumers negotiate kosher and halal in the interfaces between political discourses, religious organisations and the marketplace. We show that unpacking the various assumptions that constitute ‘secularism’ as a political doctrine is necessary in order to explore ‘the secular’ as comprising concepts, practices and sensibilities that conceptually are prior to secularism (Asad 2003: 16). The secular is ubiquitous in modern life and not easily grasped, so it may most fruitfully be ‘pursued through its shadows’ (Asad 2003: 16). Thus, we provide empirical specificity to meanings and practices associated with ‘the secular’ and secular government as part of divergent state practices in the UK and Denmark. In the majority of debates about secularism, ‘there is an unfortunate tendency to understand the secular state in rather undifferentiated terms: modern, homogenising and driven by objectifying scientific modes of governance’ (Hansen 2000: 255). Unpacking secularism involves a focus on how Jews and Muslims live ‘the secular’ as well as divergent modes of secular government in everyday life.

Einstein’s (2008) work on the ‘supply-side theory of religion’ is useful in this context in that it stresses the increasing interdependence between religious and commercial culture. Einstein argues that unlike most consumer goods, where demand can be manipulated, the supply of religious goods can only be increased because a market already exists. In opposition to proponents of the secularisation thesis, who argue that the decline in traditional forms of religious participation signals a waning of religious belief, Einstein suggests that different religious packages now offer individual consumers alternative and competing benefits. In a study of the expansion of European halal markets, Lever and Miele (2012) argue that halal certification bodies play a key role driving market differentiation in this sense, providing consumers with competing visions of ‘authentic’ halal.

(p.10) Lee (1993) argues similarly that rules and understandings for the attainment of salvation ‘have become important commodities in an expanding religious market that transcends international boundaries’ (Lee 1993: 36). Politicians, bureaucrats and entrepreneurs use the popular mass media to manipulate popular wants (Lee 1993: 37). Planners of a religious economy try to package ‘convincing soteriologies and devise practical means of delivery for their target populations in order to achieve popularity, maintain or advance a religious vision, legitimate a political hegemony, or simply gain wealth’ (Lee 1993: 48). Thus, we explore modern kosher and halal as examples of globalised religious markets subjected to tensions at different levels of the social scale.

Kosher and halal standards

Busch (2000) argues that standards are part of the moral economy of the modern world that set norms for behaviour and create uniformity and this point is important for the emergence and expansion of global and moral kosher and halal markets. Ferguson and Gupta’s (2002) concept of transnational governmentality grasps how new practices of government and new forms of ‘grassroots’ politics are being set up on a global scale. Examples are new strategies of discipline and regulation, exemplified by kosher and halal regulation and standards, but also transnational alliances forged by activists and grassroots organisations and the proliferation of voluntary organisations supported by complex networks of international and transnational funding and personnel. The outsourcing of the functions of the state to NGOs and other ostensibly non-state agencies is a key feature, not only of the operation of national states, but of an emerging system of transnational governmentality (Ferguson and Gupta 2002: 990). These political entities are integral parts of a transnational apparatus of governmentality. This apparatus does not replace the older system of nation-states, but overlays and coexists with it. It is necessary to treat state and non-state governmentality within a common frame and as an ethnographic problem (2002: 994). An example of this is not only the US kosher market as a successful private-sector regulation in an era of growing public concern over the government’s ability to ensure food safety (Lytton 2013), but also more generally increasing regulation of kosher and halal globally. Globalised grassroots groups and NGOs are good examples of how scales have collapsed into each other. Ferguson and Gupta (2002: 995) call for an ethnography of encompassment, an approach that would take as its central problem the understanding of processes through which governmentality by state and non-state actors is both legitimated and undermined across domains. This book tries to honour this call by exploring kosher and halal at different levels of the social scale.

Processes of standardisation are apparent in kosher and halal certification, but standardisation is also market-driven. We take kosher and halal standards (p.11) and standardisation to mean several things. First, they can refer to the design and qualities of products as well as proper conduct of states, organisations and individuals, for example with regard to production, preparation, handling and storage of products. Standards and standardisation can be seen to be instruments of control and forms of regulation attempting to generate elements of global order (Brunsson and Jacobsson 2000: 1). At the same time, the meanings of standards may evoke ideas of similarity and uniformity – the standardised is that which supposedly is similar and follows rules (Brunsson and Jacobsson 2000: 14). Busch (2000) argues that standards are part of the moral economy of the modern world that set norms for behaviour and create uniformity and this point is important for the emergence and expansion of kosher and halal standards. Standards standardise things or products: workers with regard to uniformity and discipline; markets in relation to fixed/uniform prices as well as the packaging of products; the way in which capitalists behave and use capital; standards themselves, that is, standardised methods that produce consistent results; the makers of standards such as scientists and technicians; consumers as a product of capitalist development and socially regulated consumption; as well as the environment. It is through standards that the moral economy is produced and reproduced (Busch 2000: 274). Moreover, standards are the recipes by which we create realities and they invoke the linguistic categories we use to organise the world (Busch 2013: 2) – material as well as ideal (Busch 2013: 3). Moral and religious behaviours are subject to standards of tolerance as they work as limits of tolerable behaviour in divergent settings (Busch 2013: 25) – for example kosher standards verses ‘civic’ standards in the US (Busch 2013: 259).

Kosher and halal are no longer expressions of esoteric forms of production, trade or consumption, but part of huge and expanding globalised markets where standards play important roles. In sum, based on our contemporary empirical data this book explores standards and their stories (Star and Lampland 2009) at and across different levels of the social scale, that is, how people interact with standardised forms, technologies and conventions built into infrastructure (Star and Lampland 2009: 3). We are inspired by the ideas that standards are nested inside one another; distributed unevenly; relative to divergent communities; are linked to and integrated across organisations, nations and technical systems; and signify ethics and values (Star and Lampland 2009: 5)

Kosher and halal audit culture in business organisations

Organisations such as kosher and halal certifiers, manufacturers, restaurants and shops possess shared characteristics such as explicit rules, divisions of labour and aims that involve acting on or changing everyday life, and a have governing ethos (making money or a management principle, for example) (p.12) (Gellner and Hirsch 2001). Important themes in our study of how organisations think about and practice kosher and halal production, trade and regulation are conflicts, diversity and power relations as well as ‘the bigger picture’, that is, competition between organisations and their relationship to the state and society at large. Kosher and halal regulation is premised on ways in which certifiers generate authority among individuals such as company representatives and participants in halal training.

There exists a particular trade relation in the market for kosher and halal. Consumers buy commodities that ideally comply with certain religious standards, and the trader not only profits but also claims a measure of authority. Marking commodities with kosher/halal logos helps to personalise this form of exchange or transaction: ideally the producer, trader and consumer all share the symbolic content of the halal logo. Marking products with kosher and halal logos emphasises the religious, personal and social component in proper consumption. This is a form of ‘logo logic’ that works by attaching political and moral messages to lifestyle brands and communicating these branded messages (Bennett and Lagos 2007: 194). In general, systems of certification have grown considerably, but the diversity of these systems oft en confuses consumers (Bennett and Lagos 2007: 204) – more and more products carry an increasing number of logos. An important theme that runs through this book is the emergence and expansion of an audit culture around kosher and halal practice. Certifiers regulate kosher/halal by performing ‘on-site’ audits and inspections in manufacturers, for example. There is a large body of literature on the rise of an ‘audit society’ but there is need for further scholarship on the ways in which audits and inspections are understood and practised in locally specific contexts. The pervasiveness of an audit culture within and around kosher and halal practices is not well understood, and this book fills this gap.

Audit and inspection systems are a feature of modern societies. They exist to generate comfort and reassurance in a wide range of policy contexts (Power 1999: xvii). To a large extent auditing is about cultural and economic authority granted to auditors (Power 1999: xvii), based of course on the assumption that those auditors are competent and their practices effective. A central aspect of audit culture that is also highly relevant to the market for kosher and halal is the pushing of control and self-control further into organisations to satisfy the need to connect internal organisational arrangements to public ideals (Power 1999: 10). Staff policies and setting up positions for kosher and halal coordinators to handle these issues properly, as well as establishing sections in companies that specialise in halal compliance, are examples of the increasingly prominent role of internal control systems that can be audited.

Food scares and scandals relating to Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), for example, and salmonella have also increased the role of public and third-party certification bodies as a way of controlling internal organisational arrangements and food systems in the global marketplace. Organisations (p.13) and their procedures have become more auditable and in practical terms this involves formalised procedures of application and negotiation with a certifier. Even if kosher and halal markets have proliferated within the last two decades, how these changes have affected manufacturers and shops is not well understood. This book fills this gap by exploring how kosher and halal requirements are understood and practised in the everyday lives of business organisations in line with changing market dynamics and the lift ing of kosher and halal food out of their traditional religious base.

Kosher and halal food markets

Of course, interest in the relationship between religion and food is extensive. Claude Lévi-Strauss (1968: 87) argued that exploring food could generate ‘a significant knowledge of the unconscious attitudes of the society or societies under consideration’. The underlying logic in this type of analysis is that religion, on the one hand, and dietary understandings and practices, on the other hand, are inseparable forces shaping human cosmology. In seminal studies of food and religion/cosmology by Lévi-Strauss (1968), Émile Durkheim (1995) and Mary Douglas (1972, 1975, 2002), binaries such as edible/inedible, sacred/profane, and raw/cooked are vital. Barthes writes that to eat is a behaviour that develops beyond its own ends and thus it is a sign vital to individual, group, and national identities (1975: 72). Simultaneously, basic food taxonomies ‘incorporate the individual into the group’ and ‘situate the whole group in relation to the universe’ (Barthes 1975: 172). We review a few of these seminal studies of food in the anthropology of religion to draw attention to the fact that few of these anthropologists could have anticipated the emergence of global markets for kosher and halal food.

In an increasing number of markets, product quality is contingent on cultural and political controversy amongst individual and collective actors attempting to influence product recognition in line with moral, aesthetic and other status-based criteria (Knight 1992). Market competition emerges between groups benefiting from such practice and markets are therefore characterised by quality uncertainty and contestation involving producers and consumers (see Beckert and Musselin 2013).

In order to explore how markets function, Callon and colleagues (2002: 199) examine how qualities are ‘attributed, stabilized, objectified and arranged’. They argue that ‘markets’ evolve and, like species, become ‘differentiated and diversified’. However, ‘this evolution is grounded in no preestablished logic. Nor is it simply the consequence of a natural tendency to adapt. Economic markets are caught in a reflexive activity: the actors concerned explicitly question their organization and, based on an analysis of their functioning, try to conceive and establish new rules for the game’ (2002: 194). These insights are particularly relevant for our purposes. We are interested in (p.14) how food products become kosher and halal through successive processes of qualification and requalification linked to production, certification and retailing. This is a far from a straightforward process and one not usually given much attention. Two key terms are relevant – the good and the product. The notion of an ‘economic good’ is associated with the characteristics that give it a degree of stability and explain ‘why it is in demand and why, being wanted as such, it is traded’. A ‘product’, alternatively, is an ‘economic good seen from the point of view of its production, circulation and consumption’ (Callon et al. 2002: 197). While a product is therefore a process, a good is a state, a moment in a never-ending process. This conceptualisation is useful in that it allows us to explore how different certification bodies define kosher and halal though processes of inspection and labelling, and how authority and trust emerge in the supply chains through which certified products travel to the consumer. As we observe in subsequent chapters, the attribution of distinguishing qualities for kosher and halal meat starts at the abattoir and only ends when a product is placed on the counter of a trusted retailer, where it gains its full quality.

The global markets for kosher and halal food have grown dramatically in recent decades. While the kosher market has continued to grow steadily (Lytton 2013), the halal market has expanded rapidly to generate positive economic predictions (Bergeaud-Blackler et al. 2015) and complex social attitudes (Bradley et al. 2015). With global meat production expected to double to 460 million tonnes by 2050 (FAO 2006), largely on the back of increasing meat consumption in the developing world, the halal market is creating significant opportunities for export to Muslim-majority countries (Miele 2016). In 2012 it was reported that India exported 1.5 million tonnes of halal-approved water buffalo meat to countries in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia in line with rising demand from price-conscious consumers. This increased to 2.082 million tonnes in 2015 to generate US$4.8 billion in export trade that made India the largest global exporter of beef (Weeks 2012). Kosher meat is also traded globally, and over recent decades Israel in particular has imported vast quantities of kosher meat from countries such as Argentina and Uruguay in South America (Grandin 2004).

The increasing visibility of kosher and halal meat products in non-Muslim countries in recent decades has also been accompanied by controversy about the religious slaughter of animals. There has been intense political debate between religious and non-religious consumers in a number of European countries, including the UK and Denmark (Lever and Miele 2012; Mukherjee 2014; Miele and Rucinska 2015). In the UK, following the longstanding position of kosher-certifying bodies that do not accept pre-slaughter stunning, there has been growing pressure from some halal certifying bodies to pro mote ‘non-stunned’ halal meat as being of a more ‘authentic’ and traditional quality (Lever and Miele 2012). While it is clear that some Muslims see halal (p.15) as a way of reinforcing their identity in the face of wider global pressures (Marranci 2009), the discourses engendered have been the source of much tension and misunderstanding. Some European countries – Norway, Iceland and Switzerland – banned religious slaughter without stunning in the 1930s or earlier, but European Union legislation now grants a derogation from stunning that respects religious freedom in line with Article 10 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. In countries with large Muslim populations where the derogation is legal and applied – for example, in the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and France – there are now halal markets for meat from both stunned and non-stunned animals (Lever and Miele 2012). Apart from Germany, where there are controls on the number of animals that can be slaughtered without stunning in line with consumer demand, a number of European countries also use the derogation from stunning to supply export markets (Miele 2016).

While all meat in the much smaller kosher market comes from non-stunned animals, evidence suggests that around 80 per cent of all halal meat in the UK comes from pre-stunned animals (FSA 2012) – though it should be noted that this figure has recently started to decrease, particularly for sheep and goats (FSA 2015). However, the high volume of meat produced and marketed as halal in the UK has led to widespread concerns about its availability in supermarkets, fast-food restaurants and public institutions. The issues involved are complex and evidence suggests that negative social attitudes towards halal slaughter, (and to a lesser extent kosher slaughter) are wrapped up with wider public concerns about integration and immigration disseminated and enhanced through the mass media (Bradley et al. 2015). There are similar tensions in other countries. In Denmark, although it had not been practised for over a decade, non-stunned religious slaughter was banned early in 2014 and religious minorities interpreted this as anti-Semitic and Islamophobic (Fischer 2014). Danish meat production companies are now struggling to meet halal guidelines for export to some Muslim majority countries (O’Dwyer 2015) and some Danish cities have ordered pork to be made mandatory in schools and on menus in public institutions. Similar arguments have been made about Islamophobia and anti-Semitism restricting market growth and development in the UK (Shabbir 2015) and since the Brexit vote in 2016 there has been talk of new production restrictions on non-stunned kosher and halal meat.

It is clear that the functioning of these markets for religious-certified food products sits uneasily between religion, regulation and consumption. But this book not only explores developments in relation to food, it also takes this comparison further by exploring globalised kosher/halal certification in biotech production (Chapter 3). Within the last couple of decades, these expanding religious markets for kosher and halal production have moved beyond meat to include enzyme production, for example, for a wide range of food and drink (p.16) products. Thus, in modern and globalising industry, it is not only for food, but also for biotechnology products that requirements to avoid substances that may be contaminated with porcine residues (kosher/halal) or alcohol (halal) are being met.

Religious consumers in the age of globalised mass production

Many of our Jewish and Muslim informants are urban middle-class individuals acutely aware of the dilemma of practising class through legitimate and proper forms of (food) consumption while performing religious identities, yet it is also clear that many other middle-class consumers react against this kind of ‘food piety’. More specifically, their knowledge of manners or styles as symbolic manifestations constitutes one of the key markers of class and is an ideal weapon in strategies of distinction (Bourdieu 1984: 66). However, Bourdieu’s theories of distinction and practice alone are not able to capture the immense complexity involved in modern religious consumption. Michele Lamont (1992) has critiqued Bourdieu’s theory of distinction through an exploration of the symbolic boundaries individuals draw when they categorise people and the high-status signals that underpin our evaluative distinctions. He argues that Bourdieu’s theories of cultural capital and habitus exaggerate cultural and socioeconomic boundaries and consequent hierarchies of power while ignoring moral (religious, for example) status signals and national repertoires (history, mass media, state–market nexus, educational system, demographic mobility, stratification systems, as well as ethnic diversity, among other things). Lamont also argues that Bourdieu’s method of studying status signals in questionnaires misses important qualitative aspects such as practices involved in the construction of symbolic boundaries between different middle-class groups. Based on research among the upper middle class in France and the United States, he draws attention to the complexity involved in mapping several and oft en overlapping symbolic boundaries (Lamont 1992). Lamont studies what it means to be a ‘worthy person’ by analysing types of symbolic boundaries between self and other (Lamont 1992: 4). The most important type of boundary for this study is moral. Religious ‘fundamentalists’ tend to draw these moral boundaries defending not only a religious position but also traditional values such as family life, neighbourhood, community and a religious lifestyle based on moral choices against materialism, individualism, elitist meritocracy, secular humanism and cosmopolitanism (Lamont 1992: 56). These insights supplement Bourdieu’s theories and draw attention to the broader aspect of food, religion and identity.

The work of Elias (2012) also provides useful sociological insights into the relational nature of symbolic boundaries in a way that moves beyond Bourdieu’s more rigid position. Although he does not focus on religion, Elias (p.17) draws attention to the competitive element of power within intergroup relations, and the ways in which food rituals, for example, help to maintain intergroup distinction through symbolic practices. Mennell (1985) draws on Elias to explore how eating habits reflect changing social relations between individuals and groups over time, and how cultural tastes are transformed in line with changes in political power and socioeconomic organisation. To fully understand food preference and avoidance effectively, Mennell argues that we thus need to examine how such changes influence food practices over an extended period of time – more specifically, we explore how consumers experience and practise everyday religious consumption on levels of the social scale: locally, nationally and globally. For example, as we shall see, many if not most of our informants are unaware of the extent to which enzyme production (Chapter 3) has undergone kosher/halal regulation over the last two decades. Paradoxically, companies and global certification bodies will argue that kosher/halal regulations are put in place to meet consumer-driven demands.

Warde’s (2016) recent work specifically focuses on understanding food consumption in contemporary Western societies. He observes that agribusiness, sustained economic growth, multinational companies and ever greater international trade has not only transformed the economic foundations of Western diets, but also created possibilities of eating in much more varied ways. In short, food systems experience the effects of globalisation (Warde 2016: 1–2), which, as we demonstrate throughout this book, is essential in understanding contemporary kosher and halal practices. Drawing on practice-theoretical approaches, Warde (2016: 2) sees eating as a type of cultural consumption inseparable from aesthetics and everyday life. Most importantly, perhaps, we are inspired by the term ‘compound practice’ that captures the complexity of eating in the intersections between different levels of the social scale. Compound practices are shaped by the sharing of practices (Warde 2016: 5) among family members, for example, and are subject to ‘pressures’ from other areas (Warde 2016: 165) – for example, ‘health’ and ‘spirituality’. Moreover, food practices condition and are themselves conditioned by the learning of new tastes, handbooks and manuals on eating, cultural intermediaries as well as controversies in popular judgements and justification (Warde 2016: 5). As we shall see throughout this book, in contemporary secular Europe significant religious observance (Warde 2016: 93) coexists with a proliferation of well-advertised specialised diets, that is, it is a feature of the modern world that many options associated with religious conviction, health concerns, political commitment and aesthetic consideration coexist and overlap (Warde 2016: 145). In this sense kosher and halal consumption encompass issues such as ‘nutrition’ and ‘spirituality’ (Coveney 2000). For modern consumers, ‘nutrition’ functions as both a scientific and a spiritual/ethical discipline. It serves this dual function by providing a range of scientific knowledge about food and the body as ‘spiritual’ disciplines: spiritual here not only means theological, but also refers to the (p.18) means by which individuals are required to construct themselves with a ‘correct’ concern for the ‘proper’ way of behaving in relation to eating (Coveney 2000: xvi).

Our study of kosher and halal consumption thus examines social occasions, food selection, processes of bodily incorporation (Warde 2016: 150) and the ways in which these elements are orchestrated in everyday food consumption. Food practices are subject to direction, coordination and regulation by different (secular/religious) stakeholders and texts that are dedicated to describing and prescribing proper eating practices. Media in liberal state regimes validate pluralism by courting dispute to strengthen bias towards hegemonic preferences and unpalatable alternatives (Warde 2016: 152–3). But this does not mean that religious consumers in contemporary Western societies always know what to eat. As the Eliasian the notion of informalisation (Wouters 2008) suggests, as questions of what to eat, where to eat and how to comport the body become more open to judgement, the need for more elaborate forms of justification increases and consumers must practise more self-discipline in deciding what is and is not acceptable. Contemporary and historical social environments, institutions and organisations thus condition compound eating practices, as we show throughout this comparative study of kosher and halal consumption in the UK and Denmark.

In sum, we are inspired by studies that explore how the diversity of religion draws attention to debates about what religion is or ought to be (Bowen 1993) and the divergent responses produced by these controversies, that is, the field of debate and discussion in which participants construct discursive linkages to texts, phrases, ideas and rituals held to be part of the universal traditions of Judaism and Islam. As we shall see, kosher and halal consumption is closely linked to ritual and ‘ritualisation’ and to the ways in which certain social actions strategically distinguish themselves in relation to other actions (Bell 1992: 74). Ritualisation constitutes a way of acting that distinguishes and privileges practice against the quotidian – most oft en as sacred and profane. Thus, ritual and ritualisation become significant through their interplay and contrast with other strategic and value-laden distinctions (Bell 1992: 90). We therefore explore everyday kosher and halal consumption in the context of a ritual economy, that is, ways in which economic processes are driven by and integrated with religious ritual (Fischer 2008a). We take kosher and halal to be such fields of debates or lenses between Judaism and Islam, and also internally amongst divergent groups of Jews and Muslims.

A note on methodology

The methodology of this study is based on participant observation, on interviews undertaken in 2015–16 and also on our earlier work with state (p.19) bureaucracies, religious organisations/schools and at kosher/halal network events, companies/shops/restaurants and with consumers. We also draw on a range of primary sources such as advertisements, newspapers and websites as well as reviewing existing scholarly literature on kosher and halal. Organisations were selected to obtain a good representative spread, that is, to cover types of organisations with different histories, sizes, cultures, structures, hierarchies and values to observe and analyse; and the same was the case with informants. Empirically the study is based on extended periods of qualitative research carried out in the UK and Denmark.

Our research strategy and methodologies allowed us to explore how kosher and halal are understood at different levels of the social scale in the UK and Denmark: more specifically, it translated theoretical and conceptual approaches to kosher/halal production, trade, regulation and consumption into questions asked during semi-structured interviews with actors at different levels of the social scale. This allowed us to compare the UK and Denmark as well as actors at different levels of the social scale. Moreover, this data was compared to others types of qualitative data such as observations during our extended periods of fieldwork.

We explore why and how the historical, political and institutional settings in the case countries give shape to kosher and halal markets, their regulation as well as particular forms of consumer practices. Thus, this book is comparative in nature as it compares not only kosher and halal, but also how these religious markets are understood and practised in divergent contexts. Epistemologically we use comparison as a powerful conceptual mechanism that fixes attention on kosher and halal similarities and differences. This can also be said to be a reflexive comparison (Herzfeld 2001) building on fieldwork in the case countries. Freidenreich (2014) explores how ancient and medieval Jewish, Christian and Muslim scholars conceptualised ‘us’ and ‘them’ through rules about the preparation of food by adherents of other religions and the act of eating with such outsiders. He analyses the significance of food to religious formation and the ways in which food restrictions generate ideas about the ‘other’. Freidenreich (2014: 8) concludes that Jews, Christians and Muslims have imagined their respective communities in qualitatively different ‘styles’. These communities employ divergent methods when classifying humanity, leading to differences in self-identification. Our book updates Freidenreich’s study by looking at contemporary understandings and practices of kosher and halal in an era of globalised mass production, trade, regulation and consumption while keeping in mind historical and textual perspectives. We are inspired by Freidenreich’s (2014: 10) method of ‘comparative jurisprudence’, that is, comparing understandings and practices of kosher and halal along four axes: firstly, comparing kosher in the UK and Denmark; secondly, comparing halal in the UK and Denmark; thirdly, comparing kosher and halal in the UK; and finally comparing kosher and (p.20) halal in Denmark. More specifically, we have focused on the major markets for kosher and halal around London, Manchester and Copenhagen, with our methodology capturing and comparing the major UK markets for kosher/halal with Denmark, where kosher/halal are important to smaller groups of religious consumers. Thus, we compare the UK and Denmark when exploring historical and contemporary contexts of Judaism/kosher and Islam/halal (Chapter 1), meat production and trade (Chapter 2), biotech (Chapter 3), kosher consumers (Chapter 4), halal consumers (Chapter 5) and in the book’s Conclusion.

We endeavoured to follow ‘the people’ (bureaucrats, representatives from kosher/halal certifying bodies, scientists, activists, company representatives and consumers); ‘the thing’ (the circulation of kosher/halal commodities as manifestly material objects of study) (Marcus 1995: 106) as well as ‘the metaphor’ (kosher/halal embedded in particular realms of classification, discourse, and modes of thought) (Marcus 1995: 108). Thus, we follow people, kosher/halal things and metaphors between Judaism/Islam, consumption, production and regulation. We introduce relevant chapters by reviewing research conducted over the last 15 years or so in order to put the contemporary material into perspective. Altogether, for this entire project we carried out around 50 interviews (certifiers, companies and consumers) and practiced participant observation. This included interviews with eight Jewish and ten Muslim consumers in each country. The reason for this is that demographically Muslim groups are more diverse and kosher is arguably more complex compared to halal, resulting in more extensive narratives of informants. In, sum the above methodologies and the research strategy allowed us to answer our central research question.

Organisation of the book

The book is in five chapters. Chapter 1, ‘Kosher and halal in the UK and Denmark’, serves as an introduction to Judaism/kosher and Islam/halal in the UK and Denmark. The main function of these discussions is to give the reader a broader context for exploring kosher and halal in greater empirical detail in subsequent chapters, so in this chapter we also discuss how this present study fit our previous studies on kosher and halal to flesh out similarities and differences. Chapter 2, ‘Manufacturing and selling meat’, explores and compares kosher and halal meat production and retailing in the two case countries, while Chapter 3, ‘Beyond meat’ looks at biotech and dairy production in manufacturing companies. In Chapter 4, ‘Kosher consumers’, we explore how Jewish consumers in the UK and Denmark understand and practise kosher consumption in their everyday lives. A specific focus in this chapter is how consumers make sense of the issues raised in previous chapters, that is, buying/eating meat and non-meat products. With regard to halal, Chapter 5, (p.21) ‘Halal consumers’, addresses the same issues as Chapter 4. Both chapters are organised so that in each we start out by discussing consumers who are very observant about kosher/halal and then gradually we move towards more nonobservant or relaxed consumers at the other end of the spectrum. The book’s Conclusion ties the findings together and explores some broader issues and themes.