By Craig Giammona
Sometimes, culinary trends move in sync with political ones. Sauerkraut was renamed “liberty cabbage” when the U.S. was at war with Germany, and a more recent falling-out with the French led to the invention of “freedom fries.”
But sometimes they move in mysterious ways. In an election season dominated by Donald Trump, Muslims haven’t always been made to feel welcome in America. Meanwhile sales of halal food, prepared according to Islamic law, are surging — and not just among the fast-growing U.S. Muslim population: Adventurous millennial foodies are embracing it too.
Shahed Amanullah could only find about 200 places that served halal food in 1998, when he launched a website to help Americans find it. Today, he’s tracking 7,600, and he says halal is making inroads even among people who are wary of Muslims. “Food is a great medium for cultural sharing,” Amanullah said.
There’s a well-trodden path in America’s food culture, leading from ethnic-specialty status to the mainstream. It happened long ago with Italian cuisine, and to some extent with kosher food, which offers a closer parallel to halal. Like the Jewish equivalent, Islamic rules mandate humane treatment of animals as well as other special preparations.
At every level of the U.S. food chain, halal already occupies a small but rapidly expanding niche.
In grocery and convenience stores and similar outlets, research firm Nielsen estimates that sales reached $1.9 billion in the 12 months through August, a 15 percent increase from 2012.
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