Halal Food, Farm, and Family

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Qi House

Halal Food, Farm, and Family
Formerly, if I ever set a vegetarian entrée as our main course, I’d get a lot of grief from my tribe. We have always had the blessing of being able to afford halal meat and poultry. And with being somewhat landlocked, relative to the oceans, by Chicago, and concerned about pollution, I prepare limited amounts of wild caught fish and seafood. However, my nest is nearly empty now and my last residing child often eats out, so my husband has become more open-minded about choosing lighter fare.
Additionally, recent years’ marketing campaigns have pushed consuming protein into consumers’ minds. We’ve convinced ourselves that with more protein, we would magically transform into muscle abundant, toned, and tanned models of physical perfection. Not. True. Overconsumption seems to promote aging and cancers, and through reading Dr. Steven R. Gundry’s book, The Plant Paradox, that I only require a mere 21 grams of protein on average per day. That may be found in a can of sardines, not at each meal.IMG_1367
I’d first learned of Dr. Gundry and his position on lectins through a YouTube video, and his work is also mentioned by Dr. Mercola. Lectins are large proteins (gluten is one of them) which are described by him as “sticky” in that they bind with other sugars, acids, viruses, and fungi, and may create inflammation and weight gain. I’ll admit that I’m having some aches indicative of leaky gut, and although avoiding lectins entails many restrictions initially in food choices, at least his protocol is temporary. Phase 1 is merely three days to jump-start a break from lectins, and the science seems to back it up. He also wrote of things that resonated with my own attitudes about eating foods in season and ideally local.
Did you know that many over the counter painkillers destroy the gut lining and the microbiome? Fortunately, I try hard to avoid any medication, unless the suffering warrants it. At first, the Plant Paradox Protocol seemed very restrictive, but I’d learned which foods are high in lectins and decided that although I tend to eat many of them regularly, I could listen to my body to determine if it was able to take the risk. Apparently, cooking lectin-foods greatly reduces the impact of them, so I can still enjoy eating legumes and vegetables with lectins weakened through cooking. There is a wealth of information in his book, but let it suffice that it makes sense to me.
Also, I realized that in the autumn we tend to carb-load; and in the winter, we should deplete these extra fat stores. Like bears, when the first dreary, cloudy, cold weather struck, I felt like hibernating and I told my family to wake me in April. Yes, I just want to crawl under a heavy, warm comforter-unless escaping to California or Arizona-until spring.
Of course, I can’t do that because there is much work to do; I work every day and rarely take time off. Be it something for pay, or something to help friends, family, organizations I volunteer to assist, or my house (old houses need work!), I always have things to do. Last week though was an adventure to visit an Organic Valley coop member’s dairy farm in Reedsburg, Wisconsin with my friend Yvonne Maffei of My Halal Kitchen. Organic Valley was so kind to put us up for the night in the hilly terrain of La Farge, Wisconsin at the Qi House, designed by local legend Theresa Marquez, and she has thought of every detail. Even the kitchen chairs had seat cushions with bees embroidered on them! Theresa is a leading activist in the organic movement and is committed to connecting research to our health. That was what we’d talked extensively about in a previous visit for which she was so generous to share her time and insights.IMG_1408
I’ve been blessed to have lived many lives, in a sense, because I have lived in urban Chicago as a young child, was raised in an affluent suburb of Chicago, moved to the city’s Gold Coast after earning my bachelor’s degree, lived in the Middle East at one point, and returned to suburban living while raising children, working full-time, and earning a graduate degree, but I’ve longed to experience what life on a rural farm would be like—at least for a while. I wish to have spent more time, but Amy and Marques of Jumping Jersey Dairy Farm were inspiring to me.IMG_1406.JPG
They have both Holstein and Jersey cows, but in reading Dr. Gundry’s book and from other sources, I have learned that although Holstein cows offer the most (7-8 gallons) milk per day, and are preferred by dairy farmers for this reason, they have the A-1 casein protein that seems related to allergic symptoms in people who have such sensitivities. I have noticed some joint pain at times when I’ve had dairy products, but perhaps foolishly still indulge in them. Jersey cows, the brown ones whose origins are from southern Europe, tend to have A-2. But don’t be fooled because some brown cows may not be pure bred and have both A-1 and A-2 genes. Remember biology class genetics? A-2, A-2 is what these farmers are testing for and would like to raise because they know the science.
In our discussions, we also realized that meat from their organic, grass-fed cattle could easily be certified Halal with a bit of guidance.
I’m looking forward to returning to their area for a conference early next year, and hope to acquire more knowledge and insights on organic farming and farming culture. Apparently, the Sociology major I was in my youth is still studying subcultures.
And now, time to cook broccoli and sautéed onions.
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Halal United with the IFANCA International Halal Food Conference

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Food bridges diverse cultures effectively, and it forged bonding at the International Halal Food Conference, hosted by the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America (IFANCA) April 6-8 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Rosemont, Illinois. The event brought a multinational array of corporations; among them were Abbott Nutrition; The Coca-Cola Company; Amway-Nutrilite division; Wrigley-subsidiary of Mars; PepsiCo; Cargill; American Halal Company; Organic Valley; McDonald’s Corporation, and others  lesser known to the public but that have products used by other companies in their formulations.

Several dignitaries from the governments of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and food scientists, export agency representatives, entrepreneurs, and consultants, from the U.S., Canada, U.K., Belgium, Switzerland, Kuwait, U.A. E., Pakistan and India rounded out the program.

The theme of Unity was iterated by several presenters who acknowledged that the former stance of protectionism and competition needs to be cast away in exchange for transparency, mutual support and cooperation. Attending the IFANCA conference were other Halal certifying agencies, and ISNA’s Ahmed El-Hattab called for a unification of Standards and formation of an ISNA Accreditation Board.

IFANCA’s founder and president, Dr. M. Munir Chaudry, stated the objectives of the gathering included import/export requirements; introducing Halal entrepreneurship opportunities; presentations on animal welfare; and advice of food safety and security. Naming brands of their certified products, Cabot Cheese; Baskin Robbins; and Tom’s of Maine, he expressed that although there are 8 million Muslims in the U.S. and 1 million in Canada they are not visible, even though they represent $18 billion in purchasing power.

Adnan Durrani, Chief Halal Officer of American Halal Company, and spokesperson for the hugely successful Saffron Road presented a video with grocery industry magnate Errol Schweizer, senior global grocery coordinator for Whole Foods Market, who sees “Saffron Road is the fastest growing brand in the frozen category.”

The National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, Inc. (NASFT) president, Ann Daw, noted in the video that “Halal should be a mainstream concept.” Durrani explained that “70% of our [Saffron Road] customers are not even Muslim.” He has consistently presented Halal as an aspect of Ethical Consumerism, and further explains “It’s about how we conduct our business…how we conduct ourselves in the world.”

Of the $8-9 billion in Kosher food sales, nearly $3.5 is bought by Muslims, and in Whole Foods supermarkets the Saffron Road line is first in frozen entrée sales. Within the larger sphere of grocery stores, the brand is 6th as it enjoys 250% growth. Success has been achieved through synchronized social media with print, online, retail merchandising, and extending to the blogger community.

In the realm of Halal foods, 35% of sales are processed foods and 10% in meats, according to Mian Riaz, PhD., director of food and protein at Texas A&M University. He stated that this is not a niche market anymore, and that 1.5 billion people eat ritually butchered food each day.

Abdalhamid Evans, founder and senior analyst of Imarat Consultants, further defined the scope of the Halal industries as finding shared values beyond religion. “They see Halal as lawful, safe, nutritious, healthy, humane, demonstrating awareness, and equitable,” Evans declared. “These values have commercial worth, and are described as eco-ethical and moral.”

Evans, a global Halal expert knows, “Halal has different connotations in different parts of the world. There are very nuanced contexts that corporations need to be aware of. Certification as a ‘cottage industry’ is going to end. Halal is big business and on the verge of becoming irrevocably sophisticated and complex. Certification is going through changes. Industry is looking for clear standards so there is a checks and balance. They want to see an accreditation industry with transparency.”

A new development is the application of the term to the Finance industry. Evans explained, “What Islamic Finance needs to do is get more involved in the real economy.” His message was that investment and financing should not be sought for gain, but more for building the strength, education, and solid economic stability for all. Halal then becomes an asset class with indexed funds, venture capital, and micro finance.

Emphasizing the need for unity, Hani Al-Mazeedi, Kuwait Institute of Scientific Research, expert in Halal quality, safety, and services, cited that the initial standards will be guidelines. Mark Overland, director of global certification at Cargill, Inc.— IFANCA’s Company of the Year—mentioned that his company has about 200 Halal certified plants out of their 800, based on consumer demand. None are in the U.S. His view is “We should recognize what consumers want, and then deliver that with integrity,” and he has echoed the sentiment for unity by advocating a council.

Underscoring many speakers was the impression that business people, researchers, and religious scholars often have no concept of the realities of each other’s constraints. The current challenge is to establish trusting relationships, communication with good will, and efforts to find equitable solutions.

Susan Labadi is project coordinator of the American Halal Association, president of Genius School, Inc.~A Professional Development Company, consultant for the ISNA Education Forum, and VP of ActionNet Trade, Inc.