Halal foods: Huron County farm certified to process turkey by Islamic rules
A family farm in Huron County may not stand out as an obvious source for halal food for the Muslim community.
But the Hayter Turkey Farm near Dashwood, a pillar of poultry production for 65 years, is responding to changing times by boosting its production of turkeys processed according to the dietary rules of the religion.
Hayter used to partner with a Toronto-based company that came out periodically to produce some private-label halal turkey products, said Sean Maguire, operations manager for Hayter. But Hayter now has acquired its own certification through the Canadian chapter of the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America.
The farm has hired a Muslim employee to supervise the halal turkey production and may be bringing on more staff in the future.
There’s potential for growth in area demand for halal foods in recently released 2016 census figures. Arabic now has overtaken Spanish as the second most-spoken language in the London area.
London city council recently approved a new halal abattoir in the Lambeth area.
Maguire said Hayter supplies some of the local market for halal turkey, but its primary market is the United States. Working through a broker, Hayter-branded halal turkey is sold in retail markets in communities such as Dearborn, Mich., which has a large Muslim community.
Maguire said the peak demand is not linked to Muslim holy days, but to the American Thanksgiving and Christmas season.
“With our culture becoming more ethnically mixed, more families celebrate both holidays,” he said.
Halal turkey is prepared by following the Muslim practice of blessing an animal before killing it by cutting its throat.
Maguire said Hayter is suited to serve the halal market because it still does slaughtering by hand. That lends itself to the traditional halal practices, something that would not be possible in a large, mechanized plant.
“It’s similar to what we do every day. The halal process is particular about the humane handling of the birds and that’s something we have been big on here, so it’s a good fit.”
Maguire said another potential market for halal turkey is government-operated cafeterias and institutions.
Hayter Farms, a three-generation family business, sells its turkey through independent grocers and retail chains such as Farm Boy as well as an onsite farm store.
This article was first published by London Free Press.