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Fresh Halal Chicken Debuts At Area Shoppers Markets Written by Muslim Link Staff Friday, 22 April 2011 23:53

If you are like most Muslims consumers in the region who frequent Shoppers Food Warehouse, the only reason you walk through the fresh meat aisle is to get to the dairy aisle. So, you probably didn't notice that one of several fresh chicken brands has a large “Real Halal”  label on it. Beginning this past March, over a dozen Shoppers Food Warehouse supermarkets across the greater Washington DC and Baltimore metropolitan areas began stocking fresh poultry produced by  Washington DC based start-up firm Real Halal, LLC. The company began in late 2008 with a primary mission to “market and sell zabiha halal meat/poultry to the U.S indigenous African-American Muslim community (Mosque Cares Community) via major top 100 supermarket chains”, according to the company website. The firm is also targeting “U.S Muslims who originate from traditional Muslim countries” and “health conscious” consumers. The company's principals include Bill Warner, Abdul-Aziz Shaheed, and Ajab Abdus-Samad, all from the Washington DC area Muslim community. Shaheed and Abdus-Samad are U.S army veterans. The founders have a combined 100 years of experience in the zabiha halal industry, according to the company website. Currently, Real Halal LLC fresh whole chicken and chicken parts are available in the fresh meat section of seventeen Shoppers Food Warehouse markets in the region, including Northern Virginia. Getting the poultry into the large supermarket chain took over one year, said Warner, who added that other large chain stores “wanted to see a track record of success” before they added Real Halal chicken to their fresh meat offerings. Real Halal convinced Shoppers that thousands of Muslims were already shopping at their stores, and that the demand would drive sales. “We feel the onus is on us [to drive sales]. We've put an intense ground level, grass roots effort at getting the [Muslim community] leadership on board at the major area masajid … if people don't by the product, [Shoppers] shouldn't sell it,” said Warner. The fresh meat is marketed as “Real Halal It's the Zabiha” which marketing VP Bill Warner said is “a double entendre” to emphasize the Islamic authenticity of Real Halal meats, which are labeled “hand slaughtered in accordance with Islamic law” and “AZA certified by the American Zabiha Authority”. The American Zabiha Authority is also in Washington DC and Real Halal LLC co-founder Abdus-Samad is listed as the contact for the American Zabiha Authority on an internet listing for the halal certifying organization. In an interview with the Muslim Link, Real Halal emphasized their meat is inspected by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The labels on Real Halal chicken show the

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Fresh Halal Chicken Debuts At Area Shoppers Markets Written by Muslim Link Staff Friday, 22 April 2011 23:53

USDA inspection seal and the packaging plant, in addition to the “Zabiha Halal” seal of the American Zabiha Authority. The USDA inspects for food safety through the production, packaging, and transportation process and does not oversee or regulate halal certification or halal labeling, only requiring the name of the halal certifying body appear on the label. In addition, the USDA requires  producers who label their products certified halal provide a letter from the certifying agency showing the product “meets the … requirements for certification.” “We are very transparent and open,” said Shaheed. “None of the other halal poultry [producers] provide the plant numbers and [production facility] on their labels.” The chickens are not caged and are vegetarian fed at farms in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and are processed and packaged in upstate New York. All slaughtermen are Muslims. “We pay out people well,” said Abdus-Samad. Compared to most fresh chicken at Shoppers Food Warehouse, the Real Halal poultry is higher priced. But Abdus-Samad said the high quality of the chicken with its health benefits more than justifies the price, which is cheaper than many kosher poultry brands. “We don't think the price differential is a factor [to our success]. Unfortunately, the Muslim community has been educated to buy cheap, and you get what you pay for,” said Abdus-Samad, who added that Jewish families in Towson, Maryland are buying the Real Halal chicken. “For once and for all, there is no question about the integrity of the [chicken]. Meat managers said we have a top quality product,” said Shaheed. “We want to make 'Real Halal, It's the Zabiha' a household name.” For now, Real Halal fresh chicken is a reality across the region. The founders are hoping the Muslim community will keep it that way. For more information on Real Halal LLC, and to view a listing of all area Shoppers supermarkets carrying fresh Real Halal chicken, visit www.realhalal.us.

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