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    Halal and Organic...Finally!

     | 08/04/2009 |


    Organic Halal Beef


    Halal and Organic…Finally!

    Although Halal is coming into its own as a food group, and Organic is already mainstream, the words Halal and Organic are rarely seen together. 

    In England you do not see them together because the organic associations do not agree with Halal slaughter so will not certify Halal products. In other places you might not see them together because the butchers only want to discuss low price not quality of the meat. 

    Unfortunately the Muslims are famous for wanting the lowest prices in their meat, and this is significant because, as statistics have shown, they eat the most meat.


    Halal and Tayyib

    However, if you go back to the Qur’an and you look for the word ‘Halal’ (permissible) where it refers to food, you will see it together with the word ‘Tayyib’ which means ‘good and wholesome’. 

    Basically this is the same as putting Halal together with Organic, and this is the food that has been recommended to the people who follow the teachings of the Qur’an, who are told to eat food that is “Halal and Tayyib”. 

    So you can imagine how pleased I was to discover one day an article on a man, whose shop is based just on the edge of Toronto, Canada, who is selling Halal Organic meat. Finally, I thought to myself, someone has understood the concept of Halal (permissible) and Tayyib (good and wholesome). 

    At the end of the day, surely it is better to eat less meat of good quality, than consume large amounts of meat of low quality. I will not digress into the health issues on this topic.


    Organic Halal Meat


    Convenience Food

    Many Muslims these days allow themselves to eat the meat of the ‘people of the Book’, which is deemed permissible in the Qur’an, but they have given the term a much broader meaning which does not restrict them to eat the meat of believing Jews and Christians, who would be people following the books of the Torah and the Bible. 

    They have been told by religious scholars that it is basically acceptable to eat any meat, other than those types that are forbidden such as pork, in this time where finding Halal meat can be difficult in non-Muslim countries. 

    This has become a convenience for them, but what they are forgetting is that one of the main reasons for eating Halal meat is not just because of the blessing that is given during the slaughter, but because approximately three times more blood is pumped out of the Halal-slaughtered animal than from an animal that is slaughtered in the non-Halal way. 

    This means that the consumer is eating three times more blood left in the meat…which is the where the most toxins are stored.


    Organic Halal Lamb


    Halal and Healthy

    In a time where people are being warned about the diseases connected to eating beef, the awareness of the toxicity of the blood of the animal should be of major importance to them. Halal slaughter is one of the ways to help decrease this.

    Now add to this the Organic aspect, that the animal is not being pumped with hormones and antibiotics and whatever other additives might be in the feed of non-organic animals, and you have a final product that is both Halal and good and wholesome for the consumer, just as has been recommended to mankind in the Qur’an.

    I called the man interviewed in the article, Mr. Fahim Alwan, owner of BlossomPure. He began selling Halal Organic meat 7 years ago, and I asked him who his customers were. Were the Muslims buying his products or the general public? He said that probably 70% of the people who bought BlossomPure Halal organic meat from his store, and the organic stores he supplies to are non-Muslim. There are only 30% that are Muslim, but out of that 30% they probably account for 50% of his sales. Proof again that Muslims consume larger amounts of meat than non-Muslims. A huge market that gets quotes of billions and trillions of dollars for potential sales in any article on Halal.

    He commented that the Muslims need to be educated on the organic aspect of meat in order to appreciate why it is worth paying the extra amount for the purity of the meat they are consuming.



    With the work that is being done internationally with Halal, we have discovered that the Muslim consumer not only needs to be educated about the quality of their meat, and why organic might be preferable, but about eating Halal itself. They need to be reminded why it is important to eat Halal meat, and not just to distinguish it from pork, but to distinguish it from animals that have not been slaughtered in the prescribed manner, and so have high blood content left in them. 

    So I commend Mr. Alwan in his attempts to provide the Muslims with quality ‘Halal and Tayyib’ products, and I hope his customers, who come mostly by word of mouth, help educate other people on why they should also be looking for products of a permissible, good and wholesome nature. 

    Through this network, I hope he can grow his company to succeed, not only to get a share of those millions and trillions promised for the Halal producers, but also to get the Muslims back on track with eating the food that is Halal for them to eat.


    Originally published on HalalFocus

    How I Discovered Local Organic (Julie Folino)

    By Julie Folino - May 11, 2009

    I have always been a healthful minded person however a few years ago I learnt some things that surprised me.  Things that changed and simplified my relationship with food, particularly with meat.


    BlossomPure Grass-Fed Beef


    I had known for some time what ‘Organic’ meant in reference to fruits and vegetables however I was a little less educated about how to apply the term ‘Organic’ to the practice of raising and processing meat.  What I learned was this:  ‘Organic’ refers to a farming practice that most closely follows traditional all-natural farming methods.

    In other words, no synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers or genetic modifications are used in growing crops or in breeding and raising poultry and livestock.  Moreover no animal by-products are used in the feed.  Livestock and poultry live in clean, healthy conditions, have access to open fields and pasture and are not kept in confinement.  Certified organic products follow strict standards set by a third party certifying body such as EcoCert and Pro-Cert.

    As I researched more I realized that it wasn’t about whether or not I should be eating meat but rather what type of meat was I willing to fill our bodies with.  How far was our food traveling before making it to our table?  What did that mean in terms of freshness, nutrition and sustainability?  What food would make the best choice for us, our health and the environment.  The answers were simple, local, traditional and nutritious.

    I learned through Dr. Weston A. Price’s findings that fat was not the enemy but that conventional farming just might be.  I learned that grass-fed or pastured animals have a significantly more beneficial vitamin, mineral and fat profile. 1

    At the time, I shopped at a conventional grocery store and was daunted by the task of sourcing local organic grass-fed meat.  That’s when I discovered BlossomPure Organic in Mississauga.


    BlossomPure Meat Organic Local Market


    I was pleased to find that Fahim Alwan, the owner, over the past seven years had been developing a partnership with local Amish, Mennonite and certified organic farmers .  His search for fresh local organic foods to feed his family led to the founding of BlossomPure Organic in 2002.  Alwan had sourced the products, maintained the relationships with the farmers and made the products available to the general public.  It was a fruitful discovery.  (One that I could really sink my teeth into.)

    Furthermore I learnt that BlossomPure not only offered local organic meat but that the meat was also halal.  Now I am not Muslim so I did not understand exactly what that meant until I read an article in Toronto Life Magazine about BlossomPure:

    ‘ Not only is Alwan’s meat organic and locally sourced, it’s also halal – permitted under Islamic law…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…the main difference between halal and non-halal meat is the method of the 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.  (Alwan) also employs a full-time slaughterman to travel to nearby processing plants to perform zabihah. (To minimize the animals’ stress, he puts the burden of travel on his slaughterman.)’2

    Needless to say I was pleased.  Because BlossomPure is located just west of Toronto I don’t have to travel to St. Jacob or any other farming area to fulfill my desire for local meat, dairy, deli, seasonal produce, fresh free run eggs, honey and other Mennonite products.  I was also pleased to know that BlossomPure Deli Meats are made from organic meats without fillers, gluten or nitrates. This offered me a peace of mind after the recent listeria contaminations.



    BlossomPure is not a full service grocery store but feels more like a farm store.  The staff is friendly and is happy to take an order for one prime cut steak or an entire side of beef - cut and packaged to my specifications.  I found the prices reasonable.  I feel closer to the farmers that grow my food when I shop at BlossomPure because I know Fahim has a relationship with every one of them.

    It doesn’t get much simpler than that and we could all use a little more simplicity in our lives and in our eating habits – don’t you think? Today, if you want to live a healthy lifestyle and keep up with the demands of the modern world you need to make an extra effort to do so.  BlossomPure has helped me to do just that.



    1. Sally Fallon and Mary Enig. “Splendor From the Grass.” The Weston A. Price Foundation’s Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts Quarterly Journal Summer 2000
    2. Sasha Chapman, “Allah Mode.” Toronto Life Magazine March 2008

    Allah Mode: Toronto Life Magazine

    Sasha Chapman, Toronto Life, March 9, 2008


    Halal Organic Beef


    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.

    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.


    Organic Halal Chicken


    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.

    In the 1970s and 1980s, it was a different story. An observant Muslim family had to trek across town to buy their meat from a halal butcher shop or drive a few hours to a farm where they could slaughter their own animal. Since many of the rituals and rules are the same, halal is often considered an acceptable alternative to kosher and vice versa. So those who couldn’t get to a halal butcher shop might ask to borrow a knife from a shochet, a kosher ritual slaughterer, and perform the deed themselves (back then you could still buy live birds in Kensington Market), or they might simply choose to eat kosher instead.

    A few years after Alwan emigrated to Canada from Syria in 1988, he began his own search for halal meat. He also wanted it to be local and organic. “The Koran tells us to eat halal and eat pure,” he says. Along with a small but growing number of “eco-halal” believers, he takes this directive to mean that animals should be raised naturally and fed what Allah intends them to eat—grass, not corn, for beef cattle. He found nothing, so he and a group of families from his mosque got together to do it themselves, investing in a steer and sharing the meat once it was slaughtered. Soon, he was driving out to St. Jacobs to buy better quality yogurt, eggs and Middle Eastern–style cheeses to feed his family.



    In the 1990s, Toronto’s Muslim population doubled (Statistics Canada predicts it will increase 75 per cent within the next decade), and soon halal butcher shops were springing up to serve it. With about 350,000 Muslims living in the GTA, we have the highest concentration in Canada.

    Alwan, who has a background in sales and marketing, formally launched Blossom Pure in 2002. Since then, it has grown about 50 per cent each year. He now sources his meat from a number of local small-scale farm ers. He also employs a full-time slaughterman to travel to nearby processing plants to perform zabihah. (To minimize the animals’ stress, he puts the burden of travel on his slaughterman.) Customers come from all over: Richmond Hill, Ancaster, even Ottawa. Though he cannot yet export to the U.S. (the slaughter houses he uses are only provincially licensed), he regularly fields calls from interested Americans.


    BlossomPure Grass-Fed Beef


    Tapping into the new secular market—more than half his customers are non- Muslim—this fall, Alwan started advertising in English the fact that his meat was halal. Like Jewish entrepreneurs before him, who chose the Orthodox Union symbol (a U inside a circle) so as not to discourage any anti-Semitic consumers, Alwan perhaps had more to lose than gain.

    The reputation for quality that is catapulting halal into mainstream diets may lead to its undoing. Large meat-packing plants and grocery chains are getting in on the act. (Maple Leaf Foods already has three halal poultry plants.) At a large scale of production, controversies swirl: is it all right to play a pre-recorded prayer as the chickens whisk by on conveyors? Is machine slaughtering acceptable? Does stunning the animal adhere to zabihah? Such “innovations” dilute the putative virtues of halal, making it more and more like the conventional meats we buy at the grocery store, especially since there are no laws in Ontario (as there are, for example, in Illi nois) governing what can and cannot be labelled halal.

    Further industrialization would be a shame. We live in an era when consumers of all stripes are concerned about where their food comes from and how it’s produced. Like kosher and organic, the appeal of halal—at least for someone like me, a resolute non-believer when it comes to any sort of dietary restriction— is that the word gives me some clue as to how my meal got to my table.

    Originally published in Toronto Life Magazine



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