Each Friday afternoon, almost 60 Virginia Tech students of the Islamic faith gather at West End Market for a communal Friday Jummah prayer and a meal of Halal chicken and lamb. Observance of this ancient tradition takes care and planning, and involves the collaboration of the Dining Services and the Meat Science Center.
Early in the spring semester, members of the Muslim Student Association approached Virginia Tech Dining Services to discuss food options specific to their religion. They found staff members receptive to the idea of addressing the needs of all students.
“We have had increased requests for Halal dining options over the past several years as our Islamic population on campus has grown,”said Bill Hess, associate director for Dining Services. “After meeting with the Muslim Student Association, we challenged our culinary team to develop some options that would meet the Halal dietary laws.”
In order for meat or chicken to be Halal, or permissible in the faith, it must be raised humanely throughout its whole life and then processed in a very quick and humane fashion.
West End Market Executive Chef Mark Bratton helped the students work with the Virginia Tech Meat Science Center to ensure the lamb was prepared appropriately. Under the watchful eyes of a USDA inspector and a USDA veterinarian, the process went smoothly and was a learning experience for all.
The Virginia Tech Meat Science Center, which is housed in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences, is a fully equipped and inspected meat processing facility that aids in teaching, research, and extension. It also serves as a hands-on learning experience for 13 undergraduate student employees who process more than 50,000 pounds of meat each year.
“Supplying the Halal meats is another great opportunity for our students to learn about how to provide food for a variety of clients and help us better understand the global food demand,” said Jordan Wicks, the Meat Science Center coordinator. “This is another great example of how Dining Services and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences are working together to serve the university.”
Now, Muslim Hokies are able to enjoy Halal lamb, chicken, and other meats on campus throughout all of the dining halls. They are delighted and very grateful for it.
“The response was extremely positive, said Muslim Student Association President Obaid Rehman, from Clifton, Virginia, a senior majoring in biological sciences in the College of Science. “Several students and community members who don't even have meal plans come onto campus to enjoy the food.”
The concepts of Halal and Tayyib, rooted in ancient traditions, are very much in step with modern day concerns about sustainability, safety, and sanitation.
“As we become a more diverse campus, it is imperative that we meet the nutritional needs of our customer,” said Hess. “Halal processed proteins, such as the lamb and the chicken we procure, allow us to do that.”
Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.