Starting this semester, Muslim students can now eat Halal meat?meat permissible for consumption according to Islamic tradition?at Thorne Dining Hall on Friday nights.
The idea for the program was introduced in the fall, when Senior Associate Dean for Student Affairs Margaret Hazlett contacted Muslim students during Ramadan, and set up a meeting to see how Bowdoin could accommodate their needs.
"She asked us, 'What do you need? How could we help?'" recalled Muhtasabbib Matin '10, a Muslim student who was involved in the process.
The Muslim students asked if the Bowdoin Dining Service served Kosher food, and when they found that they do on holidays, they inquired about the possibility of serving Halal meat as well.
After Hazlett contacted the Dining Service to see if they could find a vendor for Halal meat, three meetings took place between the interested students and the Dining Service over the course of the fall semester. Meetings encompassed the logistics of finding a vendor, as well as discussions about the regulations Halal meat requires.
In order for food to be termed Halal, it must adhere to several requirements. According to the Halal Food Authority, "an animal should not be dead prior to slaughter, a Muslim should perform slaughter, [and] any flowing blood of the carcass should be completely drained." The method of slaughter is also important. It is forbidden for an animal to be killed by "strangling or by a violent blow," and that it be killed "mirroring the Islamic ethos," according to a non-profit organization that licenses Halal meat.
"Halal meat usually comes from an animal which has been slaughtered halfway, meaning the animal hasn't been entirely beheaded," explained Reeham Motaher '10.
In addition to these regulations, pork is also forbidden for consumption, and Halal meat cannot be slaughtered where pigs have also been killed.
"It was a little bit of an education process, so it was interesting," said Kenneth Cardone, associate director and executive chef of the Dining Service, about learning the regulations of Halal meat and how the dining halls would need to comply.
For example, because Halal meat can only come into contact with other Halal meat, chefs cannot use the charbroil or flat grill to cook it. Students who want Halal meat have to get in the regular food line and ask at the counter. Five minutes later a chef will have prepared it for them.
According to Matin, Halal meat is more expensive because it is "both a unique commodity and more labor intensive."
Though it is about 40 percent more expensive than the regular meat that the dining halls purchase, the extra expense did not factor largely into the equation.
"I felt bad," said Cardone. "All week long they had no meat. If people have special needs, we will try to meet them."
Though some Muslim students may eat non-Halal meat throughout the week when Halal is not available, others choose not to eat meat at all except on Friday nights.
Martin expressed that he and other Muslim students were grateful to the Dining Service for accommodating them, and that he had not expected coming here that he would able to find Halal meat in the dining halls.
"There are 12 people who would want Halal," said Matin. "To go to all this trouble for just 12 people is a reflection of how good the dining services are."
Though currently the meat is only served on Friday nights at Thorne to an average of five to 10 students, Cardone said that the plan might be flexible.
"Once we know the counts and have a history, we can see what else we can do as time allows," he said.
Anna Karass contributed to this report.