Jasir Mayat was excited to move to Colorado from Pakistan a few months ago to attend CSU as a freshman in the College of Business.
When Mayat, a student in the INTO program for international students, read a statement on the CSU INTO website that said a dietitian would be there to work with students who follow a halal diet, he interpreted this to mean halal meat was served at dining halls on campus.
However, Mayat arrived at CSU and found that halal meat was not yet offered, despite other halal options such as vegetarian and seafood dishes. He sprung into action and approached CSU Housing and Dining Services about introducing halal meat to CSU dining halls.
Halal meat will now be served at the Parmelee dining hall starting Monday.
“We knew this was coming, given the INTO program,” said Peter Testory, senior executive chef for CSU Housing and Dining Services. “Jasir was the first student (to approach us), but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t already on our program.”
Mayat explained that Halal is an Arabic word meaning “permitted” or “lawful.” Halal meat is the only meat Muslims are allowed to eat, based on their Islam religion. It refers to beef and chicken mainly, as pork is forbidden in Islam. Seafood is considered Halal, with some restrictions.
According to Mayat, an animal used for Halal meat must be killed by a Muslim, who is required to say an Arabic phrase that means “in the name of Allah” while slaughtering the animal.
The animal must be killed by severing the jugular vein so it becomes numb and doesn’t feel much pain.
“Because we go for the jugular vein it’s considered one of the most humane ways of slaughtering an animal,” Mayat said. “In Islam we have a very high regard for animals and we don’t like inflicting pain on them.”
For the meat to be Halal it also must be free from contamination from alcohol or pork when being cooked and all the blood must be drained completely from the animal before it is consumed.
“After I came here and found out there was no such thing (as Halal meat in dining halls) I was pretty worried about it,” Mayat said. “Especially considering there’s a lot of Muslims on campus, from all over the world.”
According to fall 2012 data from the Institutional Research Factbook, out of 1,133 total international students at CSU, there are 39 students from Kuwait, 165 from Saudi Arabia and 6 from Pakistan, all of which are primarily Islamic countries.
“I wanted to introduce Halal meat so other incoming Muslim students and Muslim students already here on campus would have easier access to food,” Mayat said. “I wanted to do something good for my community, for the Muslim community in general.”
To get Halal meat introduced on campus, Mayat was hired by CSU Housing and Dining Services to survey about 100 Muslim students to find out if there was enough demand.
“This student approached us and we reacted immediately by hiring him to work for us and help us find the need for it,” Testory said.
Mayat’s surveys found that 26 Muslim students on campus practice a halal diet. Many of the students responded that they eat haram (unlawful) meat currently because of the lack of protein options and that they would eat halal meat if it was available.
Housing and Dining Services felt this was adequate demand. Halal meat will be substituted into the regular Parmelee menu on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at lunch and dinner, according to Testory. These days were chosen because they are the weekdays when there are no Halal seafood items already available on the menu.
Halal meals to be offered upon request in Parmelee include barbeque grilled chicken breast, cheeseburgers, buffalo wings, chipotle chicken sandwiches, sweet chili Asian chicken wings and more. The same outside vendors that provide dining hall meat also provide halal meat.
The Corbett dining hall also features halal options which currently do not include beef or chicken. Some of these options are mozzarella cheese sticks, red beans and rice, baked cod with lemon, grilled Portobello mushrooms and more.
“We’re pleased that this particular INTO CSU student was among those who made their dietary requirements known,” said Avery Waxman, senior director of marketing communications and recruitment strategy at INTO, in an email to the Collegian.
“And that CSU Dining Services has been able to respond in a way that not only meets their needs but also gives other students and staff even more options from which to choose,” Waxman said.
Testory said CSU Housing and Dining Services currently offer other religious food options. For Jewish students they provide apples and honey during Rosh Hashanah and matzah during Passover.
Fish is offered on Fridays during Lent for Catholic students. For the Islamic holiday Ramadan, during which Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, CSU Housing and Dining Services allows students a takeout container, two meal swipes at breakfast instead of one and late night meal swipes.
For more information on Halal dining options students can contact CSU Housing and Dining Services at 970-491-6511.
Collegian Writer Emily Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.