Allah mode

Source:  http://www.torontolife.com

From hot dog vendors to health food stores, halal is suddenly everywhere. It’s the latest twist in the story of ethical meat, and secular diners are eating it up By Sasha Chapman



Image credit: Rob MacInnis

When Maple Leaf Foods announced that listeria had infected its processing plant on Sheppard Avenue, people purged their fridges and freezers, and vowed never to eat mass-produced bologna again. Sales of cold cuts plummeted across the country. But not at Blossom­Pure, a small retail and wholesale business in Mississauga, where sales remained strong. The store’s owner, Fahim Alwan, fielded calls from prospective customers anxious to know the provenance of his salami.

Tainted-food scares usually run this predictable course: consu­mers stop, at least for a while, buying conventional, mass-produced foods and turn to alternative sources with a healthier, safer reputation. Not only is Alwan’s meat organic and locally sourced, it’s also halal—permitted under Islamic law. Like the kosher industry, which projects an aura of respectability among conscientious eaters of all faiths, halal meat is gaining favour with secular customers. Because it’s usually processed on a smaller scale and often receives third-party certification from such organizations as the Islamic Society of North America, halal is becoming synonymous with quality, cleanliness, safety and superior animal welfare.

Besides a ban on pork, the main difference between halal and non-halal meat is the method of slaughter, traditionally done by hand. According to zabihah (the Islamic law of ritual slaughter), an animal should not see another animal die, nor the knife used to kill it. The slaughterer must also invoke the name of Allah before drawing the scimitar quickly across the animal’s throat. The spinal cord is left intact to ensure that the blood drains out as quickly as possible.

Many people—Muslim or not—believe this process “purifies” the meat and results in a cleaner, better flavour, that the chick­en tastes more chickeny. While I can’t tell the difference between halal and non- halal chicken, I do appreciate the less common cuts available at halal butcher shops. At Blossom­Pure, Alwan sells chickens biryani style: cut into small pieces, bone-in, to keep the meat moist and tender when stewed or braised.

Among non-believers, the most persuasive argument for choosing halal meat is that zabihah rules are more stringent than basic Canadian regulations. No animal by-products can be used in the feed, for instance. The animal must be in good health and able to stand. You’d think this would be an obvious requirement, but before BSE scares, the slaughter of “downer” cattle (animals that are too sick to stand) was permitted in North American abattoirs.

Halal is one of the fastest growing industries in North America. The U.S. market is estimated at $12 billion a year; Agri-Food Canada estimates the domestic halal meat market at $214 million. It’s nearly impossible to go anywhere in Toronto without encountering halal, whether it’s the hot dog vendor at the corner of McCaul and College, the boxed pizzas and chicken nuggets in the deep-freezers at grocery stores or the organic beef jerky sold at the Big Carrot.

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3 thoughts on “Allah mode

  1. For those who haven’t tried Nando’s, they are a very healthy meal alternative. The restaurants in Ontario are very respectful of Halal laws. Try it.

  2. I found the Halal shops in the UK were hopeless unless you wanted your meat either diced or on the bone.

    In Australia I was relieved to find out that the Halal butchers understood the difference between porterhouse, rump, sirloin and scotch steak and sold great sausages and meat pies. Aussies love their meat and have higher expectations! Hygiene and presentation are better too.

    Also, lots of non-muslims shop in the halal shops here, whereas I don’t think they tend to in the UK.

    Still haven’t found halal kangeroo steaks anywhere though!

  3. Global Halal Trade Portal providing Halal food manufacturers, suppliers, distributor and exporters. Find Halal food sourcing company information, products, and contact information. Posting Halal food trade leads are free.

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