In this first installment of blogs I wanted to introduce my goals in writing the upcoming pieces.
Who am I?
I am an INDEPENDENT Muslim consumer in the GTA. I have a focus on common Muslim issues which I think we all hear about or reflect upon. I am primarily focused on issues related to the challenges we face as a consumer of “Halal” products and services in the GTA. I am also a bit of a connoisseur of Halal foods and will be writing on my experiences in the local Halal milieu within the GTA region.
Simply to look into and address issues faced by the common muslim consumer in the GTA and highlight points of interest. I also want to share my experiences at the establishments I frequent or try out.
Ultimately if these reviews and reflections highlight the high quality products and services offered at an establishment then this is one side of the coin, the other side being to help us as a community demand more for our money, loyalty and business where we tend to be satisfied with deficiency in certain areas sometimes. We are the fastest growing community in Canada, going from just over half a million people in 2001 to an estimated 1.1 million people as of this year. This represents a significant group of consumers, enough to yield substantial clout and to really determine and play a key role in the quality and service businesses who decide to cater to the Muslim community provide. Coming from a corporate sales and marketing background, I have an in depth understanding of market dynamics. You only get what you are willing to accept, and the business particulary when it comes to halal food is clearly one which is growing and is worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year if not more.
We need to understand that the businesses that are now catering to the community, be they meat (an entirely sub issue within this situation), banking, educational materials and other products understand that if they offer us a product or service they can benefit from a substantial profit and gain a portion of an ever growing pie. The community is growing, businesses whether small or large multinationals understand that to get in on the halal market now can set themselves up with a base and entrenchment in a market which could be double of what it is now within 20 years. A great investment as the community grows to a level that now represents a large enough portion of the Canadian population to merit considerable attention. Hence the “eid Mubarak” promotions, large varieties of dates and halal meat at most major grocery chains, particularly during Ramadan. These companies just didn’t find out muslims existed over the last few years and therefore began these targeted promotions. What they did realize, and what we as a community fail to realize and leverage is the fact that the muslim community is large, exponentionally growing, and is a potent consumer group in certain areas, populated by a diverse population of consumers who consume a disproportional amount of meat versus the general western population.
My argument is that the reality of how influential halal consumer opinion is CAN directly affect the quality and consistency of what we are offered. We no longer need to just be grateful we can get halal pepperoni on our pizza and therefore not ask questions about cross contamination, unclean cutters etc. We don’t need to just be happy that we can get “halal” chicken wieners at our local grocery, and dare not ask or care whether a giant circular blade has decapitated the chicken. Halal doesn’t necessarily mean just slaughterd correctly in my view, the proper consideration of utentsils, gloves, etc is part of the responsibility of putting a Halal sign in your business window. A consumer should not have to insist to use a clean knife, new gloves etc. If a business has the confidence to advertise it sells Halal products. That business should undertand these issues before being able to attract new muslim business with a halal sign. I guarantee you, a kosher establishment or vegan establishment which advertises as such, would never dare put up a sign without understanding the weight and responsibility of their claims.
I don’t want to go on, but I want to paraphrase a conversation I had with a halal meat insider in the community.
Me : “Brother, is the chicken machine slaughtered at your establishement”
Insider: Chuckles “ then says, “brother what is really halal anyways”
Me: “what do you mean”
Insider: “Halal has no standard processes to ensure compliance and efficiency, the community is not willing to pay a premium to ensure that the meat facilities which claim they are Halal actually are in compliance. Therefore people can really do as they please and still say it is Halal.
The then went on to explain how the Kosher certification system works, how well paid Rabbi’s are employed in abbatoirs to ensure Kosher compliance only thereafter providing certification. He also told me that a kosher chicken is twice the price of a halal one because of this, and that the muslim consumer population is primariy concerned with price and nothing else.
(I beg to differ and want to prove him wrong. )
Me: Sad face
I remember years ago watching an interview during a promotional video for machine slaughtered chicken where the suited executive of a large multi million dollar conglomerate who had little to no knowledge of Islamic fiqh was stating with confidence that the machine slaughtered method was totaly acceptable islamically. Or when I watched a video profiling the processes used where a muslim slaughter man, wearing galoshes, a plastic hairnet and lab coat was asked about the process of halal slaughter at the plant and basically said, “We say bismillah and push the button and try to say Bismillah more”……
This is a mockery not of intelligence, but really a mockery on an economic level of the true value and profit potential yielded by halal consumers who refuse to ask for better.
I hope to highlight things in a different light and empower us as consumers to value our purchasing power for what it is really worth.