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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 has now 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 evidence for the growth in the area market for halal foods in the recently released 2016 census figures. Arabic has now overtaken Spanish as the second most-spoken language in the London area.
London city council also recently approved a new halal abattoir in the Lambeth area, despite objections from some neighbours.
Maguire said Hayter supplies some of the local market for halal turkey, but the 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.
“It seems odd, but 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 better suited to serve the niche halal market because it is a small operation that 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 everyday. 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 production is government-operated cafeterias and institutions that want to offer the option of halal foods.
Hayter Farms, a three-generation family business, has been able to capitalize on the market for premium quality, locally produced turkey sold through independent grocers and retail chains such as Farm Boy as well as an onsite farm store that taps into the nearby Grand Bend tourist market
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