May 06, 2021 1 min, 55 secs

Muslim shoppers and merchants in the United States say that, along with the daily fasting requirements of the holy month of Ramadan, they are also bearing with food price increases.

Lamb prices, for example, have risen from $6 to $12 a pound, she said, and halal chicken is also up several dollars a pound.

After consumer food prices spiked from March to June last year, with meat prices in particular soaring 10 percent, food prices are no longer increasingly as rapidly.

“The Quran celebrates the act of eating, so long as it’s done in moderation and so long as believers acknowledge divine benevolence," Boğaç Ergene, professor of history at the University of Vermont and co-author of "Halal Food: A History," said in an email.

Meat was historically too costly for believers to consume on a regular basis, so it developed an important role during Ramadan to show generosity, Ergene said.

Managers at halal grocers in these cities say prices are up considerably: In Dallas, lamb is up from $6.99 to $8.49 per pound, an increase of more than 20 percent, and managers said that because of meat processor worker shortages they couldn’t order as much as they wanted.

Flour prices are set to rise 20 percent in Chicago, one halal grocery manager said.

“When the prices go up, they never come back down,” said Hamed Nabawy Hamed, owner of the Fertile Crescent grocery store in Brooklyn, New York.

“Instead of buying five pounds of chicken, they buy four pounds of chicken,” Hamed said.

ICNA Relief, which operates halal food pantries in 13 states open to anyone in need, said demand has spiked during the pandemic, and the need is great during Ramadan this year.

“Halal meat has become too costly,” said Zahid Hussain, national director of hunger prevention at ICNA Relief USA.

Because clients come from different cultural backgrounds and food heritages, the food boxes they distribute for Ramadan typically contain staples that can be adapted to multiple dishes.

Middle-class families who lost jobs and income during the pandemic, or lost a head of household from a Covid-related illness, made increased use of ICNA Relief services, said Zak Sirajullah, field coordinator for ICNA Relief Chicago.

“It was eye-opening because many of the vehicles, based on the vehicles alone you think they should be OK, but they needed food,” Sirajullah said


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