Growing up in Dearborn, Zeinab Chami often was tempted by ads for Col. Sanders’ original recipe, the finger-lickin’ meal sold by fast-food giant KFC.
However, Chami was an observant Muslim, and the restaurant’s chicken was not halal, meaning it wasn’t prepared according to Islamic law. Her choices usually were limited to what her immigrant parents cooked or the occasional takeout from Middle Eastern restaurants.
But now she’s able to get a taste of KFC. Last month, the restaurant’s east Dearborn restaurant began selling halal chicken, a change that reflects the growing demand for halal products among metro Detroit’s sizable Muslim population.
Underneath the colonel’s bearded face, the store’s sign reads “Now serving halal original & crispy.” The juxtaposition of an American icon with Islamic tradition is a striking display of the changing landscape of southeast Michigan. Halal meat is not new to Dearborn’s butcher shops and Arab restaurants, but a growing number of national chains have been accommodating the local demand for Muslim food in recent years.
“A lot has changed just in the past decade,” said Bilal Dabaja, 22, a Dearborn resident who eats halal. “More people want these products.”
The change is similar to how the growing Jewish population decades ago led to kosher becoming part of the American food industry and vocabulary. The kosher symbols “K” and “U” can be seen today on everything from Heinz ketchup bottles to Fruity Pebbles cereal boxes.
Muslims hope to create a similar market for halal products.
In Dearborn, two McDonald’s restaurants are the only ones selling halal Chicken McNuggets and sandwiches among about 13,700 McDonald’s in the country. Ram’s Horn, a local chain of diners, and Big Boy restaurants also serve halal meat in the city. And a manager at a Subway restaurant in Dearborn hopes it soon will become halal, but it is facing difficulties because of the chain’s insistence on using uniform meat suppliers.