The following article is reproduced from an interview with Mr. Ahmad Adam that by Yvonne Maffei, and published on myhalalkitchen.com
Ahmad Adam, The Entrepreneur Behind Halal Chicken at Crescent Foods
Chances are, if you live somewhere in the U.S. and you seek out halal food then you’re already aware of Crescent Foods. If not, allow me to introduce you.
Crescent Foods is a Chicago-based poultry company that is involved in the entire farm to fork process of their cage-free, antibiotic-free and beautifully-packaged halal chicken products.
For those who are just entering the halal consumer market, you might not consider this to be extraordinary, but I can remember even less than ten short years ago, if I wanted a quality halal chicken (raised and fed properly, handled in the correct Islamic manner and thus truly tayyib, or pure, and halal) there were few options to choose from.
For example, I used to go to a live poultry house and see the chicken before it met its demise, then watch it get plucked of all feathers, cut up then handed to me in a plastic bag while the meat was still warm. Hardly appetizing, but still met basic halal standards.
A few years ago when shopping at local Mediterranean markets, I began noticing Crescent chicken products in nicely-wrapped containers. Believe me, it’s not that I needed to buy meat all packaged up with a pretty label- it was more important to me that the product was clean, respectfully presented to the consumer and to know the company whose mission is clear, that stands behind their products and cares about what their producing. In effect, I felt they were listening to me, the consumer, loud and clear, even if I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted.
Soon afterwards, I met Mr. Adam, the President and Founder of Crescent Foods, and his energetic and loyal team of sales people, marketing and operations staff. I had recently started the My Halal Kitchen blog and was interested in knowing as much as I could about this halal product that I could use to create recipes that were previously more challenging to cook because of the sheer lack of product as well as lack of appeal.
They were instantly warm and generous and all very dedicated to bringing quality halal chicken to consumers. They seemed like a family to one another, too. In fact, I’ve never seen people so dedicated to a mission to bring a much-needed product to market, as well as be excited about poultry- and not just any chicken, but great chicken, masha’allah.
Later I worked on a food styling project with Crescent foods where I photographed and styled dishes of their products. During that time, Mr. Adam told me a little bit about how he started Crescent and why. I thought his story of perseverance, entrepreneurial spirit and dedication to bringing halal into the marketplace in the way he is with Crescent was such an inspiring one so I asked if he would share more details with all of you here.
This is a summary of his very interesting story, which he took a lot of time out of his day to share with us…
Mr. Adam is a Palestinian, born in Amman, Jordan. His father, a businessman and entrepreneur, also spoke Hebrew and English; his mother knew how to speak and write English and was once a candidate to become a school principal in her locale- all rare qualities and ambitions for most people at that time.
Fast forward to Mr. Adam’s travels to the U.K. and then on to the U.S. to pursue his studies in electrical engineering and we find him today as the founder and CEO of the most prominent halal poultry company in the Western hemisphere.
This is what I sat down to ask him: (Answers are paraphrased since this was not a recorded interview)
MHK: Why did you start a halal chicken business? What were (and possibly still are) the biggest challenges for you?
He responded quite clearly, “Necessity is the mother of invention”.
Mr. Adam was a consultant who exported all types of goods, whether they were clothes or electronics. He suddenly received a request for an export order of halal chicken to Dubai and so to fulfill that request, researched the poultry industry by attending poultry shows, looking for a supplier and visiting farms.
He says, in fact, that he began to pursue more knowledge about poultry processing when his wife asked why halal chicken looked the way it did in stores, with the feet and heads and everything people didn’t use nor wanted to really look at.
As an entrepreneur always looking for ideas, he decided to pursue information about feed and secured a reliable supplier who he could work with and trust for the long haul.
He met with Mr. Miller, a Mennonite farmer in Indiana, who he began to work with. At the time there was no such thing as organic-certified feed, but Mr. Miller believed in the concept of safe feed=safe food, which is what Mr. Adam explained was how he needed his chickens to be raised.
At the time (1996) there weren’t any cut halal chickens sold in trays, but the two worked together to divide up the tasks and take the chickens to market. Mr. Adam did the hand-slaughter, around 700 birds at 35 birds per minute, starting as early as 4:30 am and delivering them to his community—all the while still holding down his consulting work. It took two days to sell all of those chickens, and Crescent has been supplying the market ever since.
Mr. Miller raised the chickens and Mr. Adam hand-slaughtered, cut and delivered his own chickens, where he met with increasing demand for them right in his own community.
Next came the labels, logos and a team of people to help his vision become a reality.
In the early years, many of the challenges came in the form of figuring out how to keep up with the demand for his product. Miller farms could no longer help to package the skyrocketing amounts of trays that needed to be fulfilled each week, so Mr. Adam built his own processing plant (an amazing feat all its own, which we’ll have a story about later, insha’allah).
Crescent also developed a relationship with Midamar, who stepped in to help by selling Crescent products online and the two maintain a solid relationship today.
Tayyib An Naas…Wholesome People Eat Wholesome Food
From day one he insisted that he wouldn’t compromise on the quality of his product, but of course it was more expensive than most others on the market. He set out to prove to store owners that it was cheaper in the long run, as well as safer (using vacuum-packed containers versus ice packed) and thus suitable for shipping across state lines, which he began to do in 1997. Midamar became the first distributor, shipping Crescent chickens as far as Honolulu, Alaska and even Bermuda.
On Being Resourceful
When I asked Mr. Adam what contributed to his success and how he came to know all the things he needed to do to get this halal poultry business off the ground, his response was, “resourcefulness is a gift from Allah,” and continued to talk about being blessed with a great education in engineering from England, as well as IIT (studying electronic engineering) and applied technology from Northern Arizona State University.
MHK: Can you tell us more about how your chickens are raised- where are they raised and who is raising them? What are they fed or not fed that makes them different from other products on the market?
Crescent birds are free-roaming (same as cage-free), humane-certified (the actual name for the certificate), humanely handled birds. Their feed is USDA-certified 100% grain-fed, vegetarian-fed (corn and soy) birds. Some are even hand-fed. One of the projects Crescent is currently working on is to have 100% non-GMO organic feed for their birds.
MHK: You have an incredibly dedicated, hard-working staff here at Crescent Foods-how did you identify and bring on board such people?
Crescent Foods’ Oakbrook, IL office opened in 2008. At the time, Mr. Adams knew that members of his community were really interested in becoming part of something significant, something more than just a business. Though he still envisions more volunteers and internships in the future, insha’allah, he currently has a dedicated staff that includes talented women who wanted to take their professional lives to the next level without compromising faith or family. He recognized their skills and their talents as a complete individual who could contribute greatly to the mission of Crescent Foods and so brought them on board to do just that. To make them comfortable in their work environment, he asked for their feedback about what type of office set up they would prefer, granting them the privacy and dignity they are duly accorded in Islam.
MHK: What is your biggest hope or dream for the future of Crescent Foods and the halal food industry as a whole in America?
As the Founder of the American Halal Association, Mr. Adam wants to promote and build a national accreditation board. He is currently advocating and trying to connect scholars, industry and government to address the next steps forward. He has teamed up with ISNA (Islamic Society of North America) in discussions on establishing a National Halal Accreditation Board.
He believes that by promoting halal standards, the standards will be higher overall and companies will compete to reach those standards, which is good for consumers. He also believes that this will address the issue of fraud in labeling and claims of halal as well as present a real opportunity for companies that are committed to integrity in this industry.
He hopes to educate the masajid (mosques) and the community on topics of what halal really means and why it’s important to do it well. With the US being the largest halal producer and the eminence of globalization he hopes to instill in the community that it is time to unify and harmonize.
I would say that Mr. Ahmad Adam, the entrepreneur behind Crescent Foods, is doing more than just bring us all great chicken. He’s changing the way we think about halal, community, and the ability to rise to greater potential in this market.
Stay tuned as I follow up with Crescent foods to bring you more information on how their halal chicken really is a farm to fork product…
Be sure to ‘Like” Crescent Foods on Facebook to get details about which stores they’re in and how to find out about tasty upcoming products.