LIVINGSTON -- If you're stopping off for fuel or junk food at the All Star Food and Gas station on Crowell Street in Livingston, why not grab a hunk of freshly butchered lamb, goat or beef for dinner?
Schawali Mayar, who's originally from Afghanistan, stood in front of the meat counter that showcased beef testicles and livers, goat livers, ground meat and other cuts of meat Wednesday and explained how a halal meat shop came to bloom inside a gas station.
The Mayars' halal meat shop has been open for about a month and a half. Halal meat has been slaughtered according to Islamic guidelines and law. It is blessed in the name of God before the animals are butchered. In addition, the butchers drain all the blood out of the animal.
"There is no smell, there is no blood in the meat, it has a longer shelf life," he said, adding it's better-quality meat than that found at grocery stores.
He noted that "kosher" means when the veins are taken out of the meat, which is considered different from halal meat.
At first, he said he was worried how people would react when they came in for gas and saw a goat head. Veal, lamb and cow carcasses hang in the freezer behind the counter. It turned out to be a novelty for people to see a meat counter in a gas station.
"It worked out," he said. "They're all very interested. They see things they haven't seen before. Everybody likes it."
His family owns the gas station, a slaughterhouse on Bird Street and a stockyard in Stockton, which is the main supplier of livestock. He said he wanted to have a meat shop because people would come to the slaughterhouse and ask for a goat. "There was no place to process it and cut it into small pieces," he said. "It's very hard to take a goat home."
He supplies meat to about 90 percent of the Bay Area's Muslim halal markets.
About a month and a half into his new venture, he has more customers who are non-Muslims than Muslims. He recalled a woman who came in earlier this week asking for veal. Her doctor had told her to eat meat seven days a week. "She's my best customer," Mayar said. "So one day, she gets goat, lamb or beef."
The shop sells about three to four goats and about 200 pounds of lamb a day. About 300 to 400 pounds of beef are sold daily. People can walk into the store to pick up meat, but appointments must be made for larger orders.
Blane Franca, 57, of Livingston, came in Wednesday looking for some lamb -- with cash in hand. He said Mayar had a "great thing" going at the gas station. Franca said he had to go out of town to buy lamb because nobody in Livingston sold the meat.
"I saw the sign, 'lamb,' and thought, 'what the heck?'" he recalled. The last time he came to the shop, he picked up $40 worth of lamb.
"Here is the best I've ever had," he said of the meat, adding he's been to places such as New Zealand, which is known for quality lamb. The freshness of the meat is excellent because it was killed that day, he said.
To make an appointment for big or special orders of meat, call (209) 564-8467 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day.
Reporter Ameera Butt can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or firstname.lastname@example.org.