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What you didn't know about US chicken sold in SA – it's halaal

Oct 03 2016 06:52
Adiel Ismail

Delaware (US) – Certain US chicken portions entering South Africa under the US African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) are halaal, one of the top poultry producers claimed to Fin24.

Mountaire Farms, which operates facilities in Delaware, Maryland and North Carolina, has exported over 1 000 tonnes of drumsticks, leg quarters, gizzards and hearts to South Africa.

This was made possible after South Africa agreed to allow the US to export 65 000 tonnes of duty-free chicken to avoid being suspended from Agoa.

It was feared that allowing US chicken into South Africa would pose a threat to the domestic market as well as consumers' health over alleged sanitary concerns.

Mountaire's Delaware complex is the second largest processing plant in the US and processes about 395 000 chickens in one day. The company exports about 18% of their chickens to about 80 countries around the world.

Halaal certified plants

Although all of Mountaire's chicken is not labelled halaal, the Delaware and Maryland plants are halaal certified.

According to Islamic law, in addition to praying over the animal before it is slaughtered for it to be permissible to be eaten, it must be fed a natural diet, a sharp instrument must be used to cut the jugular vein, the animal can't be unconscious and it must bleed out completely.

It is dark in the Delaware kill room and chickens are placed upside down on a conveyor one after the other. They are quickly stunned to calm the birds down. A man dressed in white offers the so-called Islamic blessing, before the chickens' throats are slit when passing through a sharp blade whereafter they are fully bled.  

Dr Ashraf Ahmed, the past imam of Salisbury Maryland, told Fin24 that Mountaire complied with Islamic requirements for chickens to be considered halaal and has a full line of halaal products called Noor Al-Jabal.  

Complying with Islamic teachings

“Everything from the feed to the killing to the packaging is halaal. Mountaire is a highly organised company with a system in place that respects Islamic teachings,” he said, while holding an inspection list from the Halaal Food Council of the USA (HFC).

The HFC offers religious consultation to United States Department of Agriculture and is the leading halaal-food certification organisation in North America.

Ahmed, who does routine inspections of the plant, said one person employed by the HFC is stationed in the kill room at all times.

“This person will help with the slaughter at times and check that the stunning doesn't kill the chicken,” he said.

US halaal chicken. (Adiel Ismail)

A slow process

Mountaire started out slowly with halaal compliance, excluding the North Carolina plant owing to challenges with the feed, said vice president of processing operations Mark Chranowski.

“We have been dealing with halaal slaughter and certification for approximately the last four years.”

He confirmed that HFC staff are on site the entire time when chickens are killed.

“We can't run halaal if they're not here. They stand at the kill machine with the killer the whole time. If they need to go on a break, one of their people take their pace so there is someone there doing the blessings and watching what is going on,” Chranowski told Fin24.

About 15% of Mountaire's halaal labelled chicken stays in the country, while 100% of what is exported is halaal, said director of export sales Oleg Kovalev.

“When we send chicken to South Africa we provide a piece of paper which is an export halaal certificate from the HFC,” he added.

The HFC is recognised by the World Halaal Food Council, including Islamic food organisations in Indonesia and Singapore.

* Fin24 is attending the US farm-to-fork programme as a guest of the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council.

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united states  |  halaal  |  chicken  |  agoa  |  poultry


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