I frequently patronize the FoodMaxx store in Fremont, CA because I find its prices very competitive and I appreciate that it is open 24 hours a day. During my regular grocery shopping I happened to notice a hand written sign in the meat department advertising halal lamb. It was a small section on the far end of one of the meat cases. They had lamb chops, ground lamb, lamb shanks and racks of lamb all priced between $4.99 and $6.99 per pound, which is very reasonable.
Intrigued, I purchased a modest portion to try. I’d never cooked lamb before, so I called my mom to ask for a simple recipe I remember her serving when I was young. The lamb chop was broiled with black pepper and melted butter, then served with apple mint jelly. I found the meat succulent and delicious. Definitely something I’d like to add to my regular shopping list.
Thinking this might me a product specific to Fremont, I decided to contact FoodMaxx. I was first contacted by Louie Yan, the Public Relations & Employee Communications Manager for Save Mart. Turns out that FoodMaxx is owned and operated by Save Mart Supermarkets. Louie informed me that the lamb was available in all FoodMaxx locations.
The lamb was supplied by Atkins Sheep Ranch, also based in Fremont, CA. Atkins is the main marketing arm of the New Zealand based Lean Meats Limited which provides natural range reared lamb to premium end organic food markets in the US such as Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.
A few days later I was contacted by Jeff Hamilton, the Director of Meat & Seafood for Save Mart. Jeff informed me that he had just been informed that Atkin’s Sheep Ranch was forced to pull the halal statement from their label. Turns out that they had originally processed only lamb in their Fremont facility, but had recently started processing both pork and lamb in the same facility losing their halal certification.
To his credit, it shows great integrity for Jeff to volunteer this information, though it may hurt his bottom line, knowing that I had inquired about the lamb not only as a consumer, but also for an article. The decisions which lead to losing the halal certification were not made by FoodMaxx or Save Mart, but by the Atkin’s Sheep Ranch. Jeff assures me that they are not happy about this decision and will be looking for other halal suppliers. Certainly I will keep you informed as the story develops. If this interests you, please hit the subscribe button above.