From restaurants and purveyors to international Halal Food Festivals, halal food is making a breakthrough on a global scale. It is a healthy, wholesome way of eating for people of all backgrounds to enjoy, and now more accessible as it makes its way into prominent grocers and the delivery scene.
Halal is the term used to describe food and other products permissible by Islamic law. Muslims who adhere to Islam’s dietary restrictions are forbidden to eat pork products, carnivorous animals and birds of prey, and cannot consume any animal product if the animal was improperly slaughtered. Several organizations and outlets for halal products can help practicing Muslims – as well as those without any religious affiliation – locate, and enjoy, quality foods while observing their culinary specificities. From the beginning of an animal’s life to its end, it must have lived a pure life for it to be halal – from feeding them wholesome diets to sacrificing them so they do not suffer pain, animals are treated in a humane manner without alterations or additives, making the meat not only healthier, but of higher quality.
Crescent Foods is a leading company in providing halal foods across the nation. Their mission is to bring farm food to the table, without preservatives. Crescent Foods, based in Chicago, provides packaged meat and poultry to national restaurants and retail stores, which makes the food accessible to consumers of all backgrounds. Crescent Foods follows a strict guideline with the Shar’i Zabihah Committee of Islamic Social Services, which is a division of the Rahmat-E-Alam Foundation. This foundation has experts ensuring substantial information concerning halal meat and making sure it follows a specific Islamic code of ethics.
In terms of halal distribution from retailers, one can focus on fresh farms purveyors as well as grocery stores. Whole Earth Meats, located in Illinois, focuses on “local, grass-fed, free-range, organic, humanely raised” animal products. They work with farms within 300 miles of Chicagoland, reaching into Indiana and Wisconsin, making it easier to access halal foods outside of the city.
When asked what halal food meant to him, Quad Hassan, the founder of Whole Earth Meats, describes it as “food that has integrity and barakah (blessings) in a sense that it was hunted, slaughtered, and farmed with a sense of wholesomeness, joy and health.” Hassan says that Whole Earth Meats is “trying to put integrity into farming and food production,” so people can be assured that the products they are consuming are safe, healthy, and adherent to halal.
One does not have to cook the food at home in order to enjoy a halal meal. In Chicago, for example, there are some distinct areas known as hubs for halal food that stretch for blocks. Whether in the north, south, or southwest parts of the city, Middle Eastern and North African fare that adheres to the restrictions of halal can be found at restaurants like Al-Bawadi and Fattoush.
Halal food festivals have also emerged to shed light in regions across the globe, in some cities for the first time. London, Toronto, and Chicago held festivals that featured ethnic halal foods in different varieties. Over two days, the Toronto festival brought in over ten thousand people who enjoyed chef-crafted cuisine, seminars, and other culinary activities. The first U.S. festival, hosted in Chicago in September, boasted two thousand attendees at its one-day-only event.
In Chicago, there are many different races, cultures, and religions all sharing space and learning from the others. Food brings about a connection in people and places, and halal food is no exception. It is a healthy alternative for people and now it is more available and accessible to be enjoyed at home or in public. With online sites, retailers, festivals, and restaurants educating us on the things we eat, we can know that the halal food we love is served with assurance.