Iowa halal turkeys grace tables abroad

| 24/11/2007 | Reply

Iowa halal turkeys grace tables abroad


By SHIRLEY RAGSDALE

REGISTER RELIGION EDITOR

Thousands of turkeys are sent overseas this time of year by Midamar Corp. of Cedar Rapids.

Midamar
is the largest North American purveyor of halal turkeys, or turkeys
that are slaughtered and processed in keeping with Muslim dietary laws,
according to the company’s Web site.

Midamar co-owner Bill Aossey attributes the growth of the international turkey trade to Iowans’ hospitality.

“Over
the past 25 years, tens of thousands of foreign students have come to
the United States,” said Aossey, who co-owns the company with Albert
Habhab.

“Regardless of the students’ culture or religion, Iowans
and other American families have invited them to Thanksgiving Day
dinner and introduced them to the holiday as we know it. Those
students, in turn, took that gift of hospitality home with them.”

Iowa’s Muslim population is estimated at 30,000, compared with 1.2 billion Muslims world-wide.

To
assist Muslims wishing to recreate the traditional Thanksgiving dinner in their
own homes in Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Kuwait and Singapore this year,
Midamar has shipped overseas about 25,000 halal turkeys. An additional
10,000 halal turkeys have been delivered to Muslim homes in the United
States.

Last year, for her Muslim family, Shadia Igram of Cedar
Rapids cooked two turkeys – a halal one from Midamar and one “from the
store.” This year, there will be nothing but Midamar turkey in their
home.

“Last year
the halal turkey was way more popular than the store-bought turkey,”
Igram said. “Not everybody in the family chooses to eat halal, but it
is nice to accommodate those who do. It’s safer to go the halal route,
especially if it tastes better.”

Habhab said the company receives all kinds of orders.

“We’ve shipped single turkeys and truckloads,” he said. “People can order from our Web site, wwwmidamarhalal.com.

“We
retrieve the order, it’s packed here in the Cedar Rapids warehouse,
shipped and delivered to their homes. It usually takes two or three
days. Or overnight, if the person wants to pay extra.”

Aossey
and Habhab said they are descendants of two brothers who became the
first Muslim family in Iowa. Brothers Moses Habhab, Albert Habhab’s
grandfather, and Abbas Habhab, Bill Aossey’s grandfather, arrived here
from Lebanon in 1888. They were instrumental in building the historic
Mother Mosque of North America in Cedar Rapids in 1932. In 1947, they
created the first National Islamic Cemetery.

Midamar is the
first company in the United States to work with the Department of
Agriculture in developing an accredited halal food program. The Islamic
Services of America is responsible for supervision of the turkey
slaughter process.

More
than a decade ago, the cousins began encouraging restaurants and hotels
overseas to offer Thanksgiving dinner buffets for people who weren’t
accustomed to cooking or who didn’t have adequate cooking facilities to
handle a 12-pound bird.

“People don’t have to worry about how to
figure out how hot 350 degrees is in centigrade, and the turkey will
taste just like they remember it did in the United States,” Aossey said.

In
the spirit of the season of giving and gratitude, the cousins have
donated a significant number of halal turkeys to the Cedar Rapids
women’s shelter, the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization, a foster
care center and a youth shelter.

“We
have partnered with Midamar for several years,” said Linda Triina
Juilfs of Marion, who headed the committee planning a Big Brothers Big
Sisters holiday event. “This year, more than 600 people attended and
were served a holiday meal, including Midamar turkeys. The food was
fantastic.”

Category: Meat & Poultry, The Americas

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