Businessman blends jerky, Islamic culture
Nader Morgan of Beaverton had an idea: Why not make a brand of jerky that's halal?
First big marketing hurdle: What's "halal?"
Morgan has that one covered.
"Halal isn't just a Muslim blessing," said the 33-year-old entrepreneur. "It's a way you treat the animal from start to finish. It's a more humane way."
In fact, "halal" means adherence to the dietary practices of Islam. It's the opposite of "haram," which means unlawful or prohibited. A wide array of food and processes aren't allowed in food that is "halal," including alcohol or intoxicants, lard, pork, bacon and contaminants.
But lamb jerky? Especially one without preservatives, nitrates or nitrites?
And also missing from the marketplace, Morgan said.
So in 2016, he began taking businesses classes through the Beaverton Area Chamber of Commerce, in order to learn how to start one's own business. "I also read 'Entrepreneurs for Dummies.' That wasn't so helpful," he added.
The result is Caravan brand smoked lamb strips. Morgan — who recently moved from Beaverton to Portland — sells his product at Phil's Meat Market and Delicatessen, 17 N.W. 23rd Place in Portland; and Halal Mediterranean Deli, 11535 S.W. Pacific Highway in Tigard. Plus, he'll soon have a website up, www.CaravanLamb.com. And he's reaching out to other grocers to expand his business.
Morgan came the long way around to being a food entrepreneur. He worked in a wide array of businesses, including teaching in Turkey. None of those jobs quite thrilled him.
But when his daughter, Salma, turned 2, he was looking for something solid that she could eat that would be healthy, halal and easy to find.
The concept of jerky hit him. And if he couldn't find the product, he'd just have to make it.
"By the way, Salma loves it. She's 3. She eats it like candy," he added.
Morgan said the concept of blending "halal" with "jerky" already is multicultural, but he didn't want to stop there. He sells three flavors: chili lamb (which takes recipes from Latino culture); chicken masala (which blends Indian flavors); and smoked pineapple.
Jordin Denmark, head butcher at Phil's Meat Market in Portland, said he's a fan. "I've never seen anything like this before. It's leaner, and it has more flavor, than beef, buffalo or turkey jerky, which is mostly what you find," he said.
Morgan — whose mother is Palestinian and Lebanese — said the time was right to try a halal product, especially given how diverse Washington County has become. "More and more, I find, people understand what I mean when I use the term," he said.
Of course, not every grocer he approaches wants to take a risk on an unknown product. "That's the difference between an aggressive entrepreneur and an entrepreneur," Morgan said. "Are you willing to go through all those barriers?"
While standing at Phil's Meat Market, a customer walks up and tries one of the free samples from Morgan's table. She nibbles it, then her eyes light up and she emits an elongated, "Oooooh!"
"See?" Morgan says with a grin. "That's the reaction I wanted."