I visited Willowbrook Farm on Saturday with my family (my father, my wife and kids). The weather, although clear, was not really conducive to enjoying a stroll in the fields but we trekked around anyway. Although Willowbrook Farm has been going for nearly 5 years, it is still very much in a developmental stage and there is a lot of work still to be done. Aside from the chickens and sheep, plans are afoot to develop an orchard and a soft fruit garden and more vegetables will be grown. I may go back again with my video camera and have a chat with him and his wife Ruby about the farm project.
The farm shop had a number of items on offer, organic lamb cuts, frozen organic chickens, organic eggs, sausages (which were delicious!), bread and even handmade soap originating from the farm itself. Prices, it has to be said, were “expensive” notice I have put that in quotes since it is all relative. We purchased a couple of frozen chickens and they were about ?14.00 each, they were a very good size but when you are used to paying ?3.00 per chicken at your usual halal shop, obviously you are conditioned into thinking that this is expensive. Most people don’t bat an eyelid when they buy a pizza for the same price. Whilst I am not recommending that people buy all their meat stock from Willowbrook exclusively (although if you can afford it you should!) you should at least consider paying that much extra for a chicken or two on special occasions, treat yourself or your guests to halal organic meat once in a while!
What marks this produce out from the usual fair is that it is hand reared and not mass-produced and slaughtered, Lutfi and Ruby lovingly raise their produce. I asked Lutfi about wholesaling and he told me that whilst it could be lucrative it would mean compromising on quality and the welfare of the animals and that is something that he is not prepared to do. May Allah reward and bless this family in this endeavour and may Allah give us the means to support their work. Hats off to them, it is not an easy job and I don’t envy them!
A reminder. . .
A quick note to remind you our October open day, cafe and farm-shop is tomorrow 4th Oct.? The farm will be open tomorrow from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.
The cafe will run all day providing teas, coffee and snacks and light meals etc.? In the shop we have our home produced organic lamb and chicken as well as locally produced free range chicken and of course plenty of organic eggs.? We are also selling a range of locally baked artisan breads and pastries.? In addition we have a limited amount of our organic veg and other Willowbrook farm produce such as our handmade essential oil soaps.
The weather for Oxford looks set to be clear and less windy tomorrow so do pop in to enjoy a walk around the farm and to meet the animals you eat!
Location details from GoogleMaps
BUMP! – This is a post from April 2005 about the issue of halal meat in the UK. The comments section has some good discussion points and I thought that I would bump this for further discussion
Halal Meat in the UK
Last week I was discussing the the whole issue of halal meat with a few friends. We came to the conclusion that “real” halal meat is increasingly hard to come by, having said that we did recognise that we all should have husn al-zann with the meat that we are supplied with, since if a Muslim tells you something is halal you accept it unless you know for a fact that it isn’t. There were many factors that we discussed that lead us to this conclusion. Firstly our insatiatiable demamd for meat; there is no way that this demand can be met without cutting a few corners at the slaughterhouse. I know that chicken slaughter is very hi-speed and there is a very high throughput of live chickens and those conducting the slaughter just don’t have the time to say “bismillah Allahu akbar” on every chicken when the automatic knives make the cut. With regards to slaughter of larger animals, there is a widespread use of stunning and electric shock as is well discussed and documented and so I am not going to go into the ins and outs of that.
The other factor that we discussed is how many people actually know how to do “dhabiha”, Any Tom, Dick or Harry can get a Slaughterman’s license and anyone can say “Bismillah Allahu Akbar” and run a knife across the throat of an animal, but how many know exactly where to make the cut or the other ahkam that need to be fulfilled? I think as the years go by there will be less and less people with this skill and certainly this is a concern. There is absolutely no training available for the people doing “dhabiha” and even if there were it would have to be on live animals and this is not possible; anyone for Deen Intensive on the Fiqh of Islamic Slaughter?
My father runs a halal meat and grocery shop and has done so for nearly 40 years. When I was younger, our business was one the very few businesses of this kind that used to supply meat and chickens slaughtered by ourselves. From an early age I used to accompany my father to the slaughterhouse and observe the slaughter of sheep and lambs. From what I remember, my father observed all the ahkam of slaughter and never cut corners. This was reflected in the quality of the meat that we used to supply to our customers and people used to come from far and wide to buy meat from our shop and the reputation grew, even our non-Muslim customers preferred the meat that we supplied to the local butcher even though it was cheaper. Unfortunately for the last 7 or 8 years we have been supplying meat from a wholesaler of halal meat as all the local slaughterhouses shutdown one by one due to Government regulations and EU regulations it became uneconomical for small slaughterhouses to operate. For a time we did use a local farmer who was a friend of the family to supply us with sheep and the use of his farm slaughterhouse but due to the BSE and other health scares it became too risky for him.
My father once told me that there was a man who used to supply “halal” meat quite cheaply in Luton and this man used to use the same slaughterhouse that my father used to use. This man used to slaughter 6 or 7 animals for his own use and then let non-Muslim slaughtermen to finish off the rest of his order! My father was outraged and offered to slaughter his animals for free but he never took up the offer. This was going back 15 or 20 years, I don’t think this guy is supplying “halal” meat anymore. There are some unscrupulous halal meat suppliers who don’t realise that this is an amanah – a sacred trust – that has to be safeguarded.
I think if Muslims reverted back to the Sunnah practice of eating very little meat this would certainly go some way in helping as well as improving the health of the community by lessening the illnesses relating to eating too much red meat. I also think that consumer pressure should be applied in that we should demand the highest standards even if that means paying more for it. There is too much apathy on our part, whilst husn al-zann is praiseworthy it shouldn’t make us complacent in demanding the halal and tayyib.