For at least a couple years now zabihah.com, which claims to be the world’s largest guide to halal restaurants and products, has listed Outback Steakhouse among the businesses which offer halal menu options. The Australian themed bar and grill, made famous for its Bloomin’ Onion and generous portions, apparently serves halal lamb at all locations in the United States. The lamb comes from two New Zealand suppliers, The New Zealand Lamb Company and the PPCS Finegan Plant, both of which are certified halal by The Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ).
Although the halal lamb is one of the most expensive items on the menu, I find it interesting that I can walk in to a non Muslim restaurant in America and be served the same halal lamb, certified by the same Islamic organization, fed on the same grass, and maybe even slaughtered by the same Muslim as the lamb served in Mecca itself. FIANZ is the sole certifier of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which has imported the same halal lamb from New Zealand since the 1980s.
Even though the lamb itself is some of the highest quality halal meat available in the market today, actually getting a halal meal from Outback Steakhouse still requires some special instructions. The only lamb dish on the menu is the “New Zealand Rack of Lamb.” It is described as, “A rack of tasty New Zealand lamb (cooked to order) with a rich Cabernet wine sauce. Served with garlic mashed potatoes and fresh seasonal veggies.” The description alone should concern the vigilant halal consumer.
Many halal consumers contacted the franchise to confirm what was, at first, only an internet rumor. Michelle Robinson, an Outback Steakhouse spokeswoman, published a letter to clarify the matter which is widely available on the internet. Michelle writes that, “Customers who desire halal preparation should ask that the lamb be prepared in a separate sauté pan instead of on the grill.” This is because there is risk of cross contamination with other non halal products, specifically pork, if this request is not made. She also writes, “Ask that the steamed vegetables be prepared without the ‘seasoned butter’, which contains a bit of bacon in the seasoning.” Of course, halal consumers should also order it without the Cabernet wine sauce, which clearly contains alcohol.
One of the ways halal consumers can nurture the sprouting halal meat market in America is by patronizing those establishments which accommodate their needs. By demonstrating that we represent lucrative consumer base we encourage others to invest in the industry. It’s also helpful to express our appreciation when companies like Outback Steakhouse make these small gestures. It may be only one menu item, but proactive customers send the market signals that companies need to meet consumer demand.