Monday, September 20, 2010

MARYLAND: Ranches find market serving ritual slaughter needs

MOUNT AIRY, Md. — Before Easter in 2003, when Brian Schiner's family ranch was still a hobby, he received a call from a 72-year-old Greek Orthodox man.

Schiner doesn't recall his name, but remembered thinking it was a little strange when the man asked if he could buy a lamb and, if so, could he slaughter the animal himself at the ranch.
"But I said sure, I didn't see why not," he said.
After selecting and weighing a lamb, the man put the animal to the ground, laying it on its side. In one movement, he pulled the head back and slit its throat, killing it as humanely as possible.
Then the Greek man cut open one of the lamb's ankles and placed a wooden dowel in the hole. Soon he removed the dowel and proceeded to blow into the hole until the skin inflated like a balloon.
"He blew up the entire animal, a 70-year-old man," Schiner recounted, shaking head. He learned the process made it much easier to skin the lamb.
Not long after, Schiner's organic Wagon Wheel Ranch, where animals are grass-fed and hormone- and antibiotic-free, began receiving calls from area Muslims near the time of Ramadan and Eid al-Adha. They, too, asked if they could buy and slaughter their own lambs and goats.

Now, the ritual slaughter has become a significant market for Schiner, who sold 350 lambs and 110 goats last year, about 70 percent of them in advance of various religious holidays. And he's not the only business in town, either.
Two years ago, Joe Kavanagh, a former bovine podiatrist, opened Lambco LLC., a USDA-inspected ranch and meat processing facility in New Windsor that also caters to ethnic and religious groups.
"You should see it around here at Eid al-Adha, the Festival of Sacrifice, when Muslims commemorate when Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son," Schiner said. "We're busy from 7 a.m. to 8:30 at night. People come right from mosque and morning prayers, bringing the family, women and children. We set up tables and serve coffee."

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