Ramadan began yesterday, July 20, and the supermarkets, small shops, food distribution centers are eagerly expecting their sagging sales to pick up. According to La Tribune, the halal market is evaluated at 350 million euros. Carrefour is France's premier food distributor:
At Carrefour there will be no "variations on Oriental flavors" this year; rather the company wanted a simpler and more direct communication, with a special Ramadan catalog. This 25-page prospectus must "respond to the diversity" of the customers, and is valid in many stores, most notably around Paris, Lyon and Marseille. It proposes fresh food (chicken, meatballs), Mideast pastries, dried fruit, grocery items (flour, spices) and also teapots, couscous makers, processors and electric tagine makers.
The article describes the holiday as a lucrative one for many store owners.
But there remains one concern they all share, large corporations and small merchants: ramadan this year falls in its entirety during the summer vacation period, and this could slow down business. "There is much uncertainty," confirms Rachid Gacem, maker of Night Orient, a sparkling halal drink that resembles champagne but has no alcohol, sold in the major outlets.
While more and more halal food stores are opening, France is losing her traditional butchers. François Desouche tells the story of a butcher shop in Nogent-sur-Oise, up for sale to the first person able to pay the asking price of 340,000 euros, 30% less than the original price paid by the two owners, André and Didier:
Despite the friendly atmosphere in the shop, the two owners are counting the days. In three years, the business was the target of several attacks. The only shop on the square to have received this "favored treatment", according to the two. "Some people want us out of here," they say sadly. The glass door was smashed, store fronts destroyed by rocks… The latest assault was three months ago. The last straw.
Shocked by the level of violence André and Didier decided to pack their bags.
Attacks against them are not the only reason for their unexpected departure. "Nogent has changed a lot, we could feel it in our sales," and the arrival of a halal butcher shop near-by, two years ago, didn't help.
Below, one of the two owners.
As far as America is concerned, we are rapidly becoming a halal country, even though the number of Muslims here is tiny compared to France. The meat industry worldwide at some point caved into the demands of Islamic propaganda specialists, and this has repercussions everywhere. A week ago I was browsing in Whole Foods' frozen meat section and saw Atkins Ranch lamb patties, which I considered purchasing. I thoroughly searched the outer package for an indication of halal, but did not find it and so put off buying it until I was certain. Later, I consulted their website and saw that they are "halal certified". Atkins Ranch is California-based with New Zealand farms as its source of meat. At their website they list the stores all over the country where their products are sold (Trader Joe is one of them). Whole Foods is responsible, and should be held accountable, for carrying this product, or at least for the failure to inform customers that it is halal.
Of course, there is always the possibility that the meat Atkins sends to WF is not halal, but I would be surprised. WF sells New Zealand fresh lamb, over 70% of which is halal, including the exported product, but there is no label. They also sell Icelandic lamb for three months in the Fall. This lamb for now is not halal, but Icelandic authorities say they are considering returning to halal slaughter, which they had abandoned due to public protest. It seems they can get a higher price for halal lamb! (Theoretically nobody should be willing to pay for this, but Iceland exports to Arab countries, that are rich, hungry for lamb, and smart enough to know that where profit is concerned, principles are barely garbage scraps.)
I also found, while browsing the Net, that the Colorado based Superior Farms is "proudly certified halal". This company distributes its lamb and veal products to thousands of stores all over the country, including Costco and Walmart. The veal also is halal. Everything is halal. Here is what they say at their website:
Every Superior Farms processing facility has been fully certified under The Islamic Shariah For Halal Harvesting.
Click here for a link to their Halal certificate, in pdf format.
There aren't that many Muslims here, yet we have to eat halal or do without lamb. Only the smaller farmers who do their own slaughtering are (for now) reliable.
I even read that Tyson-Perdue Farms has somebody recite a prayer while the chickens are being slaughtered. This would include Harvestland chicken, owned by Perdue, and supposedly a higher quality meat. As for WF fresh chicken, it comes from various farms. We are told all of it is traceable, but who's going to ask for the name of the farm, call them and ask if an imam recited a prayer?
Since I almost never buy beef, this leaves pork and pork products which I buy in small quantities. American pork is not as tasty as it once was, since they started raising the animals to be less fatty. But at least it is not halal.
On the related topic of animal welfare, here is a description from the Humane Society of the United States of how chickens are usually slaughtered:
In a typical poultry slaughter operation, birds are first dumped or pulled from transport crates and hung upside down in shackles, often causing broken bones, bruising, and hemorrhaging. Next, they are shocked with electrified water; the majority are paralyzed but may not be rendered unconscious. Some miss the water tank and are therefore not immobilized. Birds then have their throats cut, but according to the USDA, millions miss the blade and drown in tanks of scalding water and may be conscious and able to feel pain. Since the USDA interprets the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act to exclude poultry, there is no federal requirement to slaughter the animals by methods that render them insensible to pain before they are killed.
It all seems a losing battle. We have to worry about pesticides in both regular and organic foods (yes, organic foods are full of organic pesticides!), and deadly E coli bacteria; we have to avoid genetically modified foods; if we care about animal welfare, we are shocked to learn that slaughtering methods are still horrendous, halal or not; now we are forced to eat halal, unlabeled, and we are helpless to change the situation which has dramatically worsened over the past five years. I also see that some foods are both organic and halal, something I thought was impossible. But since we have kosher organic, halal organic should not surprise me.
Labels: Animal Cruelty, Australia, Culture, Eurabia, Hallal, Health, Iceland, Islam, Ramadan, Religion, Terrorism, United States, Urban Violence