Chartwells cafés, catering offer halal meat


Nowshin Chowdhury

The Bear Cave in the basement of the Oakland Center offers chicken pizza with halal chicken upon request.

Since the beginning of this semester, Chartwells has provided customers with a new halal chicken option on campus. The option is meant to serve OU’s Muslim community.

Syed Hussain, a senior majoring in electrical engineering at Oakland, initiated the proposal. He reached out to Kevin Peasgood, executive chef for Chartwells, last semester to see if halal options were a possibility.

Halal meat is distinguished from other meat based on the way the animal is slaughtered.

“As a Muslim, we are not allowed to eat food that is not halal,” Hussein said. “In Arabic, the word ‘halal’ simply means permissible or allowed, translating to food that is permissible for Muslims to consume.”

To be certified as halal, the animal must be slaughtered facing the city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and be killed quickly and mercifully by a Muslim after he or she recites a prayer.

Chartwells’ halal meat is sourced from Wolverine Packing, a local Detroit distributor.

On campus, halal chicken is now offered at many of the to-go coolers in the Grizz Express, Pawley Hall, Elliott Hall and Kresge Library’s café. Halal chicken can be purchased from the Bear Cave in the basement of the Oakland Center, as well.

“Getting halal food was fairly simple,” Hussein said. “I expressed my concerned [sic] . . . I explained to them [Peasgood and Mark McCormic, resident district manager of Chartwells] about the need for halal food, and they were immediately on board with this.”

Halal meat is not currently available in Vandenberg Dining Hall or Tilly’s in Oak View Hall.

Peasgood said there isn’t enough demand in the residence halls for the option to be implemented.

“There’s halal food that’s typically vegetarian food, but we haven’t had any requests to bring halal proteins over to Vandy in the time I’ve been here,” McCormic said.

James Zentmeyer, director of OU Housing, said Housing is “very supportive and appreciative of these efforts,” but was unable to meet for further conversation on halal options for residents.

So far, the program has been doing well, according to both Peasgood and McCormic. Not only are students able to buy the chicken in prepared salads or to-order at Bear Cave, but most comparable meats can be replaced with halal chicken in catering orders upon request.

“There’s a good word down at the Bear’s Cave,” Peasgood said. “They’ve sold a lot down there, and we’ve definitely pushed a lot through catering for the student groups and stuff.”

Halal chicken won’t be able to be implemented in most of the vendors in the Oakland Center, as many are corporate-owned. However, both Peasgood and McCormic said there’s a possibility of including the option at Create.

“It’s probably exceeded our expectations on what we thought was going to sell,” McCormic said. “We thought we’d put it out, and a couple of people would take advantage of it, but it sold better than I thought it would sell.”

Another halal-friendly option Chartwells offers outside of the new chicken is the sushi. While not included in transfer meals for residents, sushi can be purchased with declining points or cash at different outlets across campus, including Create and Grizz Express.

All of the halal items are considered specialty items for catering. They don’t appear on the menu, but are available upon request. Groups that wish to order halal food must contact Chartwells in advance before submitting their budget requests.