Popeyes is one of the few places in Scarborough that makes halal fast food, making it a big attraction for the Muslim community. Their new location on Ellesmere Road even pays ode to the majority of its customers, with 786 (numeric for “In the name of God”) as the last three digits of its delivery number.
The fast-food joint came under fire recently for switching from hand-processed to machine-processed chicken. According to imam Shaykh Yusuf Badat from the Islamic Foundation of Toronto, this renders the chicken haram (forbidden for Muslims) as opposed to halal (permissible).
If they press a button and say ‘bismillah’ once, the first chicken is acceptable but what about the rest?
— Imam Shaykh Yusuf Badat
He said the issue is not about hand-processed versus machine-processed. It’s about the religious guidelines that are broken.
“They only recite the blessing once at the beginning,” he said. “I’ve been to numerous plants and they’re slaughtering 290 chickens per minute. If they press a button and say ‘bismillah’ once, the first chicken is acceptable but what about the rest?”
A Muslim, Christian or Jew must slaughter the animal while reciting the blessing as the animal’s jugular vein and main airway are slit open.
“We’ve randomly taken off chickens from machine slaughter and we’ve seen only two arteries are cut,” he continued, adding that if health and safety are held to the highest standards, then so should religious standards.
Machine-processed chicken is nothing new at Popeyes. Over the past six years, the restaurants have swung back and forth between suppliers who provided a mix of both. Halal Monitoring Authority secretary-general imam Shaykh Omar Subedar hasn’t eaten there in five years.
“It’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know,” he said, speaking outside his position at HMA and referring to the changes in meat suppliers over the years.
A server at the Popeyes on Ellesmere Road admitted that the number of customers has decreased since the change was announced on posters in 14 local restaurants around two weeks ago. Franchise owner Yusuf declined to comment, citing the lawsuit by franchisees against Popeyes Louisiana Chicken.
“The situation is tight,” he said.