Chicken in the UK

tryptych

waiting for a time
There's been a recent spate of programs on UK TV in the past week on chicken production, spear headed by celebrity chefs Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall & Jamie Oliver. I missed Oliver's one, but saw F-W's, which was particularly interesting because he was denied filming access to any intensive chicken rearing shed, and ended up constructing his own so he could show people how bad it was. He also set up group with local people in Axminster running their own hand reared chickens on their allotments.

Anyone else watch them? The debate following on has centred on the cheapness of intensive chickens (two for £5 in Tescos) compared to free range. Cue lots of "well it's all very well for rich people, what about single mums on council estates" on one side, and some nasty "if they didn't spend so much on Burberry and mobile phones" comments on the other. The fact that Hugh F-W is fairly posh, and comes across with a little of the squire talking down to the peasantry doesn't help.
The Observer food critc Jay Rayner seems to imply that intensive chicken farming saved us from TB :rolleyes:

Personally, I think the whole struggling-working-class vs facist-foodie-toffs really is a bit of a sideshow - I think the figure quoted in the the program was that 90% of chickens sold in the UK are intensively farmed, which means there must be an awful lot of people who can afford to spend the extra but don't.

Still, I was pretty stunned by some of the people in the hand-rearing group admitting that when they roasted a chicken they would only eat the breast meat and throw the rest of the carcass away, and also that F-W managed to persuade Sainsburys to install videos above the chilled aisles with footage of intensive and free-range chickens on the farm.
 

noel emits

a wonderful wooden reason
Didn't see the show but can certainly see how it might be seen as distasteful for posh Hugh to be preaching. Still, however you carve it I do think that increasing general public understanding of meat production methods can't be a bad thing.

The on-demand culture dictates that it is your inaliable right to have what you want when you want it (as long as you can pay) but I would say that if you've got little money it's still cheaper to eat vegetables. You don't have to eat chicken.
 
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Lichen

Well-known member
The fact that Hugh F-W is fairly posh, and comes across with a little of the squire talking down to the peasantry doesn't help.
The Observer food critc Jay Rayner seems to imply that intensive chicken farming saved us from TB :rolleyes:

Personally, I think the whole struggling-working-class vs facist-foodie-toffs really is a bit of a sideshow - I think the figure quoted in the the program was that 90% of chickens sold in the UK are intensively farmed, which means there must be an awful lot of people who can afford to spend the extra but don't.


I suspect FW is clever enough to realise he's putting himself in the line of fire because of his class and (hard earned) wealth. That he goes on record regardless is to his credit.
 

zhao

there are no accidents
from that article i posted in the meat thread:

From everything I've read, egg and hog operations are the worst. Beef cattle in America at least still live outdoors, albeit standing ankle deep in their own waste eating a diet that makes them sick. And broiler chickens, although they do get their beaks snipped off with a hot knife to keep them from cannibalizing one another under the stress of their confinement, at least don't spend their eight-week lives in cages too small to ever stretch a wing. That fate is reserved for the American laying hen, who passes her brief span piled together with a half-dozen other hens in a wire cage whose floor a single page of this magazine could carpet. Every natural instinct of this animal is thwarted, leading to a range of behavioral ''vices'' that can include cannibalizing her cagemates and rubbing her body against the wire mesh until it is featherless and bleeding. Pain? Suffering? Madness? The operative suspension of disbelief depends on more neutral descriptors, like ''vices'' and ''stress.'' Whatever you want to call what's going on in those cages, the 10 percent or so of hens that can't bear it and simply die is built into the cost of production. And when the output of the others begins to ebb, the hens will be ''force-molted'' -- starved of food and water and light for several days in order to stimulate a final bout of egg laying before their life's work is done.
 

Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
I'm sure a lot more poultry farmers would use more humane methods if they could sell their meat and eggs at prices that would make it worthwhile for them, which the big supermarkets basically prevent them from doing.
 

tryptych

waiting for a time
Good piece from k-punk, of course agree with the false idea that consumer "choice" can make a real difference.
Not to sure about the use of "sentimentality" though - seems to de-value the suffering of the non-human. I wonder how the arguments would run if cheap chickens were replaced by the suffering of sweatshop workers.

Trying to get my head around the idea of a collectivist equivalent of "paternalism" would be is pretty difficult (k-punks final sentence)!
 

noel emits

a wonderful wooden reason
Trying to get my head around the idea of a collectivist equivalent of "paternalism" would be is pretty difficult (k-punks final sentence)!
Maybe would have been easier to picture back in the days when the inherent corruption of government hadn't been turned into a political philosophy to go with economic systems based on the inherent greed of human beings.
 

tomd

penis like a micromachine
One day the human race may all live in terrible conditions under artificial light, these programs honestly make me grateful to be top of the food chain rather then a small perthetic chicken.
 

stelfox

Beast of Burden
k-punk's piece was interesting, but wrong. i'm really not buying the idea of advising people to eat decent food as an act of bourgeois oppression of the proleteriat. similarly, i don't get the idea that insisting on shovelling crap into one's family can be viewed as a revolutionary act. the fact is that the mechanisms of capitalism have created battery farms (they're actually a pretty good metaphor for many other things, too) and awful living conditions for animals, just as they have created poor accommodation and working conditions for people. this situation i sperpetuated by people buying into capitalist consumer society. saying that it's better to keep buying poorly farmed, nutritionally suspect food than to listen to someone who's had an easier life than you is to completely miss the wider issues in question.
hugh fearnley-whittingstall is right (and this has nothing to do with me liking his writing and broadcasting at all). if people didn't think they had to eat chicken for every meal and accepted less choice but better-quality products, then the situation would right itself reasonably quickly. i'd expect mark to see this and am surprised that he doesn't. of course, a more interesting thing for hfw to have done would have been to get involved with helping people set up allotments and farming co-operatives where they could raise their own food (actually, it seems he has done this, but it's a more interesting focus anyway and more should have been made of it), rather than offering another consumer choice as the solution to a problem rooted solely in market-driven economics, however his basic points are solid. the primacy placed on choice is largely an illusion, and these choices come at a massive cost.
as for the idea of there being a moral way to farm meat, that strikes me as a largely anthropomorphic point of view. personally, i couldn't give a shit about chickens. they're animals, they're there for eating and i'm no more sentimental about my meat than i am about the average potato. what i am concerned about is the use of hormones, the rising fat content of intensively farmed meat, the general fall in quality and the effects of this on the health of working-class people. the massive rise in obesity isn't a strange coincidence. if better quality meat that's better for people can only be achieved by giving livestock a nicer, fluffier life, as appears to be the case, then everyone's a winner. saying that it's somehow ok to accepting the shitty end of 21st-century capitalist economics (bad food, bad housing, low pay) and honourable to lash out at one man who says things should be different, just because he's wealthier than you, is to become mired in petty class antagonism when there are much better things to be doing, and to be complicit in the expolitation of working-class people.
 
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Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
Well said, stelfox (although I think chicken welfare *is* a worthwhile consideration, when all is said and done).

Also: does anyone else read the tltle of this thread in John Lydon's voice?
 

UFO over easy

online mahjong
personally, i couldn't give a shit about chickens. they're animals, they're there for eating and i'm no more sentimental about my meat than i am about the average potato.

damn that's cold. potatoes don't have faces man. or brains or hearts. are sweatshop workers there for sewing as well?






ok maybe that's a stretch... :D

I don't buy the "can't afford it" argument either. In the past three years of being a student I basically lived off veg and bacon.. I was very healthy.
 
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N

nomadologist

Guest
of course, a more interesting thing for hfw to have done would have been to get involved with helping people set up allotments and farming co-operatives where they could raise their own food, rather than offering another consumer choice as the solution to a problem rooted solely in market-driven economics, however his basic points are solid. the primacy placed on choice is largely an illusion, and these choices come at a massive cost.

yeah this is an especially good point
 
S

simon silverdollar

Guest
I don't buy the "can't afford it" argument either. In the past three years of being a student I basically lived off veg and bacon.. I was very healthy.

i agree you can eat very well very cheaply (especially if you willing to eat a lot of vegetables), but poorer families can't eat as other, middle class, families do without buying intensively farmed meat, and that's important; if you want to give your children what they see other children getting, like a roast on sunday, pork chops, bangers and mash, whatever, then you either have to pay a lot, or buy battery farmed stuff.

it's because the food we eat and offer to others is so wrapped up in feelings of social status that i'm not sure it's a good argument to say that poor families could just serve their kids vegetable bakes and there'd be no problem.
 

stelfox

Beast of Burden
i totally buy the can't afford it argument, what i don't buy is wearing not being able to afford it as a badge of working-class pride and viewing a well-motivated attempt to highlight the problems of intensive farming as the arrogant proclamations of a paternalistic british master class. of course this this is about class. *everything* in this country is, but hugh fearnley-whittingstall, despite being a double-barrelled old etonian who studied at oxford (incidentally, neither of those things are a crime; if they were we'd have to string up woebot, reynolds and a good few other people on this board for arrogantly and paternalistically telling people about/making/DJing good music), isn't the right person to fight here
 
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Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
Poor people in 'unable to afford stuff wealthy people can afford' shocka...

I guess on the one hand you've got people being made to feel like they're bad parents because they can't afford to feed their kids organic wholemeal sun-dried this-that-and-the-other, and on the other hand you've got people peddling the idiotic myth that you have to live on Waitrose or Whole Foods groceries in order to eat well. If you're prepared to put in even the slightest bit of effort it's very easy to eat well for little money; even cheapo chicken is a good source of protein, has little fat and can be tasty if you do something interesting with it (additives, hormones etc. notwithstanding, I've no idea what current UK law says meat can contain in this respect).

What's depressing is how huge the prepared food/ready-meal market is in the UK: food like this is *really* expensive for what it is, it's typically packed full of preservatives, salt, fat etc. etc. and it's invariably been trucked half-way accross the country, sat in a warehouse freezer for months and wrapped in huge amounts of packaging. I mean, how difficult is sausage and mash, really? Edit: oh, and I forgot the minor point that it's usually tasteless pap, as well.
 
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simon silverdollar

Guest
What's depressing is how huge the prepared food/ready-meal market is in the UK: food like this is *really* expensive for what it is, it's typically packed full of preservatives, salt, fat etc. etc. and it's invariably been trucked half-way accross the country, sat in a warehouse freezer for months and wrapped in huge amounts of packaging. I mean, how difficult is sausage and mash, really? Edit: oh, and I forgot the minor point that it's usually tasteless pap, as well.

i wouldn't be surprised, though, if ready-meals decline in popularity, at least among the middle classes; they've lost whatever aspirational edge the used to have, with so many health concerns around them, and also now it's seen as a little crass and unsophisticated not to have some interest in cooking.
 

swears

preppy-kei
What's depressing is how huge the prepared food/ready-meal market is in the UK: food like this is *really* expensive for what it is, it's typically packed full of preservatives, salt, fat etc. etc. and it's invariably been trucked half-way accross the country, sat in a warehouse freezer for months and wrapped in huge amounts of packaging. I mean, how difficult is sausage and mash, really? Edit: oh, and I forgot the minor point that it's usually tasteless pap, as well.

Hahaha...I grew up on this stuff. Career mum and all that.
 

swears

preppy-kei
I think "patronising, middle class, Guardian-reading, organic wholefood enthusiast" is as much of a ropey strawman as "chav".
 
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