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What is halal chicken? KFC’s switch to ‘inclusive menu’ sparks outrage

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What is halal chicken? KFC’s switch to ‘inclusive menu’ sparks outrage

Here’s everything you need to know about halal-certified chicken and how it is different than regular chicken

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Some customers online are planning to boycott KFC Canada after the fast-food chain announced it will be serving halal-certified chicken products in its Ontario restaurants as a “testament to our commitment to providing diverse and inclusive menu options,” according to a memo shared online over the weekend.

The switch sparked outrage causing #BoycottKFC to trend on X (formerly Twitter) after a screenshot of the company memo was shared over the weekend.

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Halal-certified chicken has been available at KFC restaurants in Ontario, excluding Thunder Bay and Ottawa, since May 15, according to KFC Canada’s website, and is expected to be available throughout the rest of Canada by the end of the year.

National Post’s columnist Rahim Mohamed on Wednesday notes the online panic began when Toronto-based influencer Dahlia Kurtz posted a screenshot of the press release, captioned: “And so it begins, quietly …” The post had garnered 5.6 million views by Wednesday afternoon.

The announcement accompanies a partnership with halal-certified suppliers such as Maple Lodge Farms and Zabiha Halal.

KFC Canada says in the memo it is collaborating with its Muslim team members to roll out the Halal initiative. Ontario restaurant staff will receive specific training and the initiative has been closely guided by Muslim team members. KFC Canada, a Yum! Brands Subsidiary, could not be reached for comment. An employee at KFC Yonge Eglinton Centre confirmed the menu changes with National Post over the phone but asked to remain anonymous.

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Here’s everything you need to know about halal-certified chicken and how it is different than regular chicken.

What does halal mean?

Halal is an Arabic word meaning “permissible.” According to Islamic law, it not only encompasses food and drink, but all matters of daily life, according to the Canadian Halal Food Certifying Agency (CHFCA). Halal practices are based on the Quran and the tradition of the Prophet Mohammad.

Islamic dietary laws include various requirements for meat and include restrictions for what is not permissible or “Haram,” according to CHFCA.

Foods must not contain any haram substances such as pork, alcohol, or blood. It must also be free from cross-contamination with other haram substances.

Muslims must ensure that all foods, particularly ingredients used in processed foods, pharmaceuticals and packaging, are also halal.

What’s the difference between halal chicken and regular chicken?

The difference between halal chicken and non-halal chicken lies in the slaughtering and processing methods, according to CHFCA.

Halal chicken and all land animals must be slaughtered in compliance with the Islamic law. Animals must be slaughtered in the name of Allah by a Muslim who is of sound mind, according to CHFCA. The blood must be fully drained from the veins and the animal must be healthy at the time of slaughter.

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By contrast, non-halal chicken and meat are not prepared in compliance with Islamic law, according to CHFCA. There is no specific attention paid to the cutting method or blood drainage process, and there is no religious requirement to avoid cross-contamination with haram substances during handling and processing.

Non-halal chicken may also include additives or ingredients that are not permissible in Islam, such as certain preservatives or flavourings derived from alcohol or pork.

Why is KFC Canada making the switch to halal-certified chicken?

In Ontario, where 6.7 per cent of the population identifies as Muslim, according to the 2021 Canadian census, the global fast-food chain aims to cater to Canada’s growing Muslim community. Mohamed on Wednesday wrote that the move by KFC is simply good business sense.

Non-Muslims make up nearly 40 per cent of Canada’s market for halal foods, according to the Halal Monitoring Authority.

Many of KFC’s competitors, including Popeyes, Mary Brown’s, Church’s Texas Chicken and Nando’s, have provided halal options on their menus prior to last month’s announcement from KFC Canada’s corporate office.

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As Mohamed notes, halal meat is also considered by some nutritionists to be healthier than other meat alternatives, because they are free of hormones, GMOs and other additives. However, some humanitarians have raised concerns about the method used in Islamic law for slaughtering animals, which entails the slitting of the animal’s throat while it is still conscious.

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