Journalist Najeeb Hasan has written a beautiful piece for San Francisco Magazine on ethical halal meat, profiling Ahmad Karaouni at Nature’s Bounty Meats in Solano County, CA. Karaouni runs a small-scale slaughterhouse that sources meat directly from ranchers and sells halal meat directly to consumers; a novel arrangement in a world of industrial mega-slaughterhouses and ranchers “beholden” to processors. Karaouni agrees with us that halal is just a baseline in industrial agriculture, and that consumers need to look to Islamic ethics to get meat that truly reflects what’s best about our tradition; compassion for Allah’s creation.
It’s not enough, Karaouni insists, to rubber-stamp all halal meat as good meat without considering where that meat comes from. “Halal” is a term in Islamic law that merely means “permissible.” The standard dictates what kind of animal Muslims can eat—pigs are out, but so, for example, are carnivores with fangs and any animal that has been beaten, strangled, or killed by a fall. It also regulates the slaughter itself, mandating in most schools of Islamic law, for instance, that the animals must be slaughtered manually by a devout person who invokes the name of God before the kill. In one sense, halal for Karaouni is akin to USDA approval: a standard that provides merely a starting point for the proper treatment of the animals we eat. Both, he believes, fall distressingly short of the ideal.
I don’t want to quote extensively from the article, because I’d rather you just read it for yourself in its entirety. What’s powerful about the piece is that it’s not just about the issue of halal, or meat ethics. Karaouni runs a business where every aspect of the process–from sourcing healthy animals from conscientious ranchers, to absolute transparency in the care and slaughter of the animals, to selling directly to consumers–is exceptional. Exceptional both because it is unusual, and because it models the kind of business that we hope to see spread across the world.
Read the entire article here.