Centralia shop in US specializes in processing Islamic food

By Carly Nairn – The Chronicle (Centralia)

Gene Huguenin is a Christian and Marine Corps veteran. He is also the
owner of a Centralia meat processing plant that butchers goats, sheep
and beef according to strict Islamic religious standards for shipment
to Muslim customers around the world.

The Beef Shop, owned by Gene and his brother Arnold, is now among
the few places in America to process meat in total accordance with
halal, the method of permissible behavior under Islamic law, including
dietary laws.

This weekend will be one of the busiest times of the year for The
Beef Shop as it, along with its distributor in Renton, PacWest, will
start slaughtering around 200 goats, 200 lambs, and 15 head of beef for
the Eid al-Adna, a festival in honor of hajj from Nov. 27 to the 30th.
There is heavy demand for halal meat during Muslim celebrations of
hajj, or the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, a necessary component of Islam.

The Huguenin brothers saw the partnership with PacWest to produce
halal standard meat from a cost-benefit analysis. Generally the meat
business is what Gene refers to as “a feast or famine,” but in
processing halal meat there is a year-round demand.

“We were looking for other revenue,” said Gene Huguenin about the partnership with PacWest.

“Pepperoni, jerky, beef bologna, all that stuff is a market we are looking into,” he said.

The Huguenins had to install a special holding cell called a knock
box at their Airport Road facility for the animal that will be
slaughtered by halal standards. The equipment and installation cost
about $36,000, according to Gene Huguenin.

There are only six boxes in existence in North America, according to
Hamza Abdulkarim, a partner of PacWest, The Beef Shop’s halal meats

Gene Huguenin says his faith doesn’t conflict at all with The Beef Shop’s new business model.

“It’s one of those things that it’s the same as eating a kosher hot dog,” he said.

The Huguenins started producing halal meat about 50 days ago to
provide halal meat to much of the West Coast and beyond, said

Many of the animals will be sacrificed, or qurbani in Arabic, in
accordance to Muslim tradition, and one-third of the animal will go to
the owner of the meat, one-third to the owner’s family and friends, and
the last one-third to the poor, according to Abdulkarim.

“Most halal meat is supplied by the Midwest, Wisconsin, northeast
Canada and Texas, which is a race to the bottom … if all halal
distributors are selling meat from the same supplier,” Abdulkarim said.

A halal diet has many of the same basic components of a Jewish kosher diet, with cleanliness and thanking God being key.

The only difference between halal and other methods of slaughter is
the way the animal is killed. In order to meet the halal standards of
ethical slaughter, The Beef Shop employs Manuel Lizalde, an observant
Muslim who has been harvesting halal meat for the past five years. A
prerequisite for halal harvesting is that the harvester must be an
observant Muslim. Before each live animal has its throat slit, or
zabiha (the Arabic name of the killing) the harvester stands Qibla (in
the direction of Mecca) by the animal and recites the prayer,
“Bismillahi Allahu Akbar,” or “God is great and God is the only one,”
according to Lizalde.

Other standards for the meat to be certified halal include that the
harvester slitting the throat has to believe in Allah as God and
Muhammad as the prophet, they have to be accepted by the Muslim
community to do the act, and they have to live a life in accordance
with Muslim attitudes, including not eating pork or drinking alcohol,
said Lizalde.

The animal is drained of its blood. Blood, according to Muslim
tradition, is haram, or forbidden, in the Muslim diet. It is also seen
as a precautionary action against blood pathogens such as E. coli.

It is argued by both Lizalde and Abdulkarim that the halal method of harvesting is more humane than the stun-and-bolt method.

“The meat tastes so much better and the animal has no pain and suffering,” Lizalde said.