Last monday to wednesday Hugh's chicken run was on Channel 4 where Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall sets up a chicken farm where one half of the barn has intensively farmed chickens and the other half has free range chickens to show how over 90% of the chickens in our local supermarkets are produced. Then on Friday there was Jamie's Fowl Dinners where he revealed the origins of our eggs and chicken, explaining the process of food production. The shows are all part of Channel 4's Big Food Fight - a series of cooking/food related shows by Hugh, Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsey. Rob and I have watched Hugh's chicken run (except for Tuesday) and Jamie's Fowl Dinners.
In the first episode of Hugh's Chicken Run, we see Hugh inviting the CEOs of the big supermarket chains including Tesco, Sainsburys, Morrisons, ASDA, Co-op etc with no response. Sainsbury's changed their mind and spoke to Hugh in the final episode. Sainsburys were one of the few supermarkets prepared to meet with Jamie as well for his Fowl Dinner's talk, but didn't make it to the actual evening he hosted. However it seems that Sainsburys are feeling somewhat threatened by this series (as well as other big supermarkets I'm sure), as amongst the mail recently was a letter from Sainsburys, my regular store, with leaflets about their chicken and egg range along with a cover letter saying:
Over the next few weeks you may see programmes on the television or read articles in the press about the farming practises used for chicken and egg production. We take our responsibilities for animal welfare very seriously.....
Currently all the fresh and frozen chickens and eggs we sell are British and we are one of the few retailers who can make this claim. We also sell chicken and eggs that are produced in a variety of ways, from Assured Food Standards (Red Tractor) to Free Range and Organic.
It goes on to talk about how they have recently won a few awards for their commitment to farm animal welfare and their targets for how eggs are produced, which is great to hear, but when it comes to the additional leaflets to help explain how their chickens and eggs are produced I'm not all that impressed or feeling all that much more educated about the whole thing as there isn't really all that much information about what the "Assured Food Standards" or "Freedom Food RSPCA Monitored" logos actually mean. (Jamie did show us a bit about the RSPCA monitored way of producing chicken in Fowl Dinners though).
Don't get me wrong I'm glad that my store is trying to educate and clarify where the food I buy comes from and what is in it. I love that their loose bananas are all fairtrade, I love the little wheel on the packaging using green, orange and red to show how healthy the product is and I am happy they're being proactive explaining where they source their chicken but I think there's a bit more that needs done on their part on this issue.
Rob and I have decided to go free range or with the RSPCA monitored (corn fed, indoor birds that have room to move, perches, bales of hay and natural sunlight to stimulate them as well as footballs to play with!) chicken from now on and to keep on buying free range eggs. We were in Sainsburys briefly at the weekend and I had to have a look to see what the price difference is, seeing as that is what put me off in the past. For 2 chicken breasts the price was £2.58 for the standard chicken and £2.24 for the "Taste the Difference" free range chicken, so price shouldn't be too much of a problem!!!! So I would really encourage you to think about what you buy, how your food is produced and even where you buy it from!