Antwi Farms

Chicago Live Poultry
6421 N. Western Ave.
Chicago, IL 60639
Tel (773) 973-2531
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Chicago Live Poultry

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CHICAGO LIVE POULTRY
Article published by Chicago Sunday Time

Mohamed Ziyad grabbed three live chickens by their feet and legs from the back of his store, Chicago Live Poultry. The chickens squawked and flapped their wings. White feathers flew into the air as the birds were stuffed into a plastic green tub to be weighed. Maybe the chickens acted like that because they didn't like the way Ziyad handled them. Or maybe the realized they were about to be given their last rites before becoming dinners in Mohamed Khan's home. Khan, a Pakistani immigrant, dressed in a traditional outfit of qameez and shalwar, shops at Chicago Live Poultry, 6421 N. Western, at least once a week to buy four to six chickens. "I like it because the chickens are fresh, and as part of the Muslim tradition, the chickens are prayed over before they are slaughtered," Khan says. Ziyad, who immigrated to America from Jerusalem in 1982, is happy to oblige, and he expects to be more obliging as holiday orders mount. His method of food preparation is Old World, but his customers enjoy the New World tradition of Thanksgiving and Christmas as much as any native. Chicago Live Poultry employees kill and clean live poultry, fish and rabbit on the spot for customers in process known as halal zabiha, or fresh meat the Muslim way. The store, near Devon Avenue in the heart of Chicago's Indian and Pakistani communities, is one of about 10 live poultry stores in Chicago, said Matt Martin, spokesman for the city's Health Department, which inspects the shops. Added Sandra Alfred, acting head of the food and dairy division of the city Health Department, "We inspect them like all other food establishments, with the exception that we work closely with the Illinois Department of Agriculture due to the unique nature of their business." At one time, live poultry shops were common throughout Chicago, but the convenience of supermarkets selling frozen poultry eventually replaced them. Live poultry stores are now experiencing a revival, because immigrants from Mexico, India, Pakistan, China, Nigeria and Poland and some African Americans from the South prefer freshly killed to frozen. In fact, the word "frozen" is anathema to those at Chicago Live Poultry. "At a supermarket, you don't know how long poultry has been frozen," said Ziyad, whose smiling face takes on a disgusted look when the topic raised. A glass wall in the front of the store separates customers from the poultry and rabbits. Behind the wall, in cages, are turkeys, ducks, pigeons, roosters, quail, geese and rabbits. There are also several varieties of chickens - white chickens; roasters; silkies, which have black feathers and skin, and black chickens, which have black feathers and white skin. The poultry and rabbits in the front of the store are more or less display items. Most of the poultry and rabbits are trucked in from farms in Michigan. Prices range from $1.89 a pound for duck to $5 for pigeons and $7 for silkies. After Khan makes his selection, Ziyad walks to the rear of the store, removing six white chickens from a second set of the cages. Ziyad weighs the chickens to determine their price. He then takes the birds into a room with stainless steel walls and ceiling, and he cuts their throats with a knife. Ziyad, who wears an ankle-length plastic yellow apron and knee-high rubber boots, places the chickens head first into the stainless steel cones to allow blood to drain from their bodies into a sink. Most times, the chickens are placed inside a machine filled with hot water. The machine turns the chickens seven times, loosening the feathers. They are placed into another device that removes the feathers. The chickens then are laid on a stainless steel table. Ziyad slices the chicken open, removing internal organs. Employees give the chickens a final cleaning with several sprays of water. For Khan, however, Ziyad removes the chickens and scooping their innards. He gives the chickens a final wash before putting them in plastic bags for Khan. Each ethnic or racial group has specific requests. In addition to poultry, Chicago Live Poultry also sells catfish, which swim around in an 8-by-3-foot metal tub in the front of the store, and grocery items. Large bags of basmati rice are stacked on the windowsills. On the shelves, there are jars of grape leaves, jumbo golden raisins, falafel dry mix and bottles of rose syrup. In the refrigerator case, there are chicken eggs and much more expensive quail eggs that sell for $3.50 a dozen. Ziyad advertised the opening of Chicago Live Poultry, one of three such stores he owns, by dropping off fliers at area mosques and tying a live chicken to a wooden crate in front of the store last year during the first week of the shop's opening. The store attracts a steady stream of customers during the week, and on weekends a person can barely move. With Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays approaching, he expects business to get even better with a sale on turkeys.
By Chicago Sunday Time
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