So, what are you planning as the centerpiece for that special holiday get-together?
How about reindeer? No, I don’t mean live animals or plastic replicas of Santa’s loyal helpers. I mean reindeer meat.
Well, if you happen to live in Norway — and you’re a devout Muslim — your wish just came true.
A Norwegian meat processor, who’s teaming up with a certified halal butcher, is marketing reindeer meat, just in time for the Muslim community to join in celebrating that country’s Christmas food traditions.
According to a report in Agence France-Presse, Harry Dyrstad, the owner of a small, specialty wildlife packing plant near Trondheim, Norway’s third-largest city about 300 kilometers due north of Lillehammer, where the 1994 Winter Olympics were staged, has already shipped meat from more than 100 reindeer to butcher shops nationwide.
Dyrstad obtained a seal of approval from the Islamic Council of Norway, whose members he invited to visit his facility to sample the meat.
“We got the idea one-and-a-half years ago,” he told The Local, Norway’s largest English-language newspaper. “We spoke to some contacts in Dubai, and they said to sell reindeer meat, it has to be halal.”
And guess what? Dyrstad is now looking to develop a ham that Muslims can eat. That’s right: Halal ham, just in time for the holidays.
“We [were informed] that we could produce ham from reindeer, and Muslims could have ham on their sandwiches,” he said.
Crazy? Maybe, but certainly one of the more novel ideas Euro meat processors have hatched of late.
“It is going to be exciting to see how Muslims receive the novelty of reindeer,” Mehtab Afsar, general secretary of the Islamic Council of Norway, told the Trondheim newspaper Adresseavisen. “This is a completely new halal product that Muslims have not had access to before.”
Part of Dyrstad’s motivation is opening a new market. That’s obvious. But it’s also a response to a declining industry. The production of reindeer meat is down, especially in Finland. Just three months earlier, Agent-France Presse reported that reindeer producers there had to reject a German order for the meat from 100,000 reindeer because such a quantity was simply unavailable.
In fact, the business of raising reindeer may be a crossroads, according to the report. In 2013, Finnish herders will sell fewer than 80,000 animals for meat, and some experts are predict a sharp rise in price, which could depress sales and further curtail production.