Due to Muslim students’ repeated requests for healthier halal food options, Harvard University Dining Services has started serving halal chicken on the grill menu in all dining halls the previous week. Halal chicken will eventually serve as the only halal meat in the menu, once supplies for halal hamburgers and hotdogs run out, as told by HUDS spokesperson Crista Martin.
“In the last two years, students have expressed their strong interest in seeing chicken in the menu, rather than hamburgers and hot dogs type things, as the halal food option,” Martin wrote in an email.
Shaiba Rather ’17 conducted a survey last October to Muslim students at the College to see whether their dietary and religious needs were being met or not.
Rather said she had got responses from about 70 percent of the Muslim population, and results showed that students wanted healthier halal options.
“When we studied the results, we found that people were not actually eating the hamburgers and hot dogs that were being provided by HUDS,” “The comments were telling us that people essentially were refusing to eat processed foods as a protein due to it being haram,” Rather said.
Rather said she took the results of the survey and asked HUDS administrators about the possibility of offering halal grilled or baked chicken. With the addition of another item on the grill menu, HUDS had limited menu space and will consequently stop presenting halal hamburgers and hotdogs in the menu, according to Martin.
“Operationally we couldn’t just add to the existing menu; financially, we couldn’t also just add to the cost of offerings,” she wrote. However, it is notable the halal grilled chicken does cost more than the halal hamburger and hotdog options.
“It actually costs more to serve chicken. So it was a cost increase, not a cost decrease,” said Martin T. Breslin, HUDS’s director of culinary operations. “Having too many items on the grill makes it difficult to manage.” The change in offerings has been met with great interest by the Muslim students, according to both Breslin and Rather.
“We are seeing the volume increase with the halal chicken right away,” Breslin said. “In Adams House, we have seen that what students have ordered in chicken has doubled than what they would have ordered in hamburgers and hotdogs.”