What’s for dinner tonight?
For the diverse clientele of the Saba Halal Live Poultry Shop, it’s likely to be the freshest-tasting chicken, guinea hen, rabbit, duck, goat and beef, reminiscent of the poultry and meats found in their birth countries.
At Saba’s, located at 162-B W. Lehigh Ave., the raucous sounds of clucking roosters and the typical intense smells of a country farm greet visitors upon entry. But this city slaughterhouse, located in the heart of El Centro de Oro, has managed to successfully bring the Islamic halal method of killing animals to a community that is primarily Latino and Catholic.
Fadwa Awed, a Muslim Palestinian currently living in Bensalem, Pa., makes the trek to Fairhill on a monthly basis.
“I appreciate that the poultry is prepared in the halal tradition and I typically take home between 15 to 25 chickens per visit,” Awed said.
The term halal, in accordance with Islamic law, refers to the religious practice in which an animal is humanely slaughtered, making it suitable for consumption.
“That makes a big difference in the mentality of the customer,” said Khalid Mouhtarim, Saba’s Moroccan-born general manager.
Mouhtarim has trained his Latino butchers to say the Muslim prayer “Bismillahi Arrahman Arraheem,” which loosely translates into “In the Name of Allah.” After prayer, a customer-selected animal is slaughtered with a specialized knife that cuts its throat swiftly, which enables the animal to quickly bleed out.
Saba’s clientele also enjoys the halal practice of slaughtering animals for reasons other than religion.
“When you bleed the animal, it makes the meat more clean because the blood contains bacteria,” Mouhtarim said. “They love the action of bleeding the animal before they eat it. My main customer is the Latino customer. They grew up in the islands and they are used to eating the fresh-killed chicken.”
Mouhtarim said about one-third of his clientele is Latino, another third is Muslim, and he was surprised by the number of Asians that frequent his shop.
“The Asian customer is interested in fresh-killed chickens, too,” Mouhtarim said.
Willy Pichardo, 25, a Domican-born Fairhill native, couldn’t wait to get his newly purchased guinea hen home.
“I will put it in a pot with lots of cilantro and a Goya packet, and it is delicious,” Pichardo said.
Although poultry, in particular chicken, is Mouhtarim’s No. 1 seller, goat has become a very popular addition to the business. Mouhtarim said that the goat is naturally cholesterol-free, which appeals to his customers. Native Puerto Ricans are the top buyers of goats in his shop.
Although 9-year-old Mohamed Kafy admitted he enjoys eating chicken, he expressed unhappiness at the prospect of the live chickens and rabbits he met at the store being slaughtered.
“I will be very upset if they kill a rabbit,” Kafy said.