HALLOWELL — For Joel Davis and Khalid Zamat, a chance encounter several months ago has launched new opportunities for both their businesses.

And that business relationship opened the door for Central Maine Meats to reach out to a new group of potential employees.

Davis is managing director of Central Maine Meats in Gardiner, and Zamat owns two Mainly Groceries stores, including one that opened just last week on Water Street in Hallowell. Through those stores, Zamat sells halal meat, which he gets from out of state.

At Central Maine Meats, Davis and his business partner, Bill Lovely, are operating a USDA-inspected slaughterhouse that’s helping to build the local food economy in central Maine. They work with Maine producers to process meat that otherwise would be sent out of state and to sell it to a wide range of customers. Because of its USDA designation, it can sell across state lines.

The meeting with Zamat showed him a new opportunity among Maine’s growing population of Muslims. A Somali community has settled in Lewiston, and several hundred Muslim families from a number of countries have settled in the Portland area. Augusta has an established Iraqi community, and families from Afghanistan and Syria have recently moved to the area.

“One of the things we recognized with the new immigrants is that they have special dietary habits, and we were approached by several places that wanted to provide for halal processed food,” Davis said.

“Halal” is the Arabic word for permissible, and it refers to anything that is permitted under Islamic law. When it comes to meat, it describes the process used to slaughter animals. First, the animals are blessed and then are killed by hand by a Muslim butcher.

Davis said he asked Zamat to find him a halal butcher, which Zamat did, but that was only the start of the process.

“As a USDA facility, we had to be authorized to bring in a non-employee to do the processing,” Davis said. The company applied for a special certification license, and received authorization last month.

Now Central Maine Meats is producing halal meat and it’s being distributed in Maine.

It’s a new opportunity for Zamat, who owns and operates Mainly Groceries in Augusta and Hallowell. Zamat had been getting his halal meat from distributors in Boston and Minnesota because he could find none locally.

In addition to providing halal meat, Central Maine Meats has hired four Somalis to work in the company’s flash-freeze facility, packaging meat for freezing.

Jessica Lowell can be contacted at 621-5632 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: JLowellKJ


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