Blessed beef a boon for P.E.I. company

As immigration continues on P.E.I., the demand for halal beef is growing — and Atlantic Beef Products is taking advantage of the opportunity.

Halal beef a growing market for Atlantic Beef Products

Atlantic Beef Products president Russ Mallard says all the beef put through the plant are slaughtered in the halal tradition. (Karen Mair/CBC)

Said Sadat relaxes on plush Afghani pillows at his restaurant in Charlottetown. He spent the morning 
blessing beef at Atlantic Beef Products in Albany, P.E.I.

When he and his family moved to P.E.I. from Afghanistan in 2007 there were not a lot of options for halal — food that is "permissible" under Islamic law.

So Sadat became part of the solution and became certified to perform the halal meat tradition. 

"The animal has to be blessed," he said in his quiet voice. "The animal is stunned then blessing starts, 'God is great,' then cut the throat and bleeding the animal."

As more newcomers settle in P.E.I. — and Canada — the demand for halal food continues to grow.

Russ Mallard, president of Atlantic Beef Products, hired many of those newcomers. He said the company has a diverse work team of 120 employees with several workers from eight or 10 countries including the Philippines, Libya and China. 

Now, all the beef put through the plant are slaughtered in the halal tradition, he said.

New markets

"We're always looking for ways to grow our business and we took advantage of the opportunity. I'm personally excited by all the diversity of people here. We all know without inbound population P.E.I. will shrink and we'd be at a disadvantage."

The company is finding new markets for halal off the Island, as well. Two processors, Bonte Foods in Moncton and Tony's Meats in Antigonish, N.S., are making halal beef bacon and the large cones used for donairs and gyros. Atlantic Beef Products is also exploring markets in China, Mallard said.

Said Sadat, who operates Sadat's restaurant in Charlottetown, is certified to perform the halal meat tradition. (Karen Mair )

"The fact that we have halal beef is a bonus."

Sadat believes the market for halal on P.E.I. will continue to grow.  He has been visiting Shaw Family Meats in Cardigan for about nine years, blessing lamb for his community and for his restaurant. And he goes to Larkin Brother's Poultry in Rustico to bless the chicken for his restaurant. 

Demand high at UPEI

The demand for halal is also high at UPEI, where many Muslim students eat on campus. All the chicken breast meat is halal and comes from the school's food supplier, Sysco.

Stephanie Baxter of Chartwell's, which prepares the food on campus, said sandwiches and pasta dishes served in the dining hall and on dining menus are halal. 

Prepared food and snack food in other areas of campus are not halal, but Baxter said UPEI campus food services "is happy to work with any students to accommodate their diet."