Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Chicken Out! Campaign

We always used free range eggs but often gave in to the cheap chicken on the shelves of our local supermarkets. Two birds for £5.00 etc. But after viewing the programmes made by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver we have now decided to only eat free range chicken from now on.

The conditions these birds live in to give us cheap chicken are disgusting. No daylight, no space, 30 minutes of dark every 24 hours, cannibalism, 39 days from egg to slaughter and standing in their own excrement for all this time. No more!

I'll shamelessly nick a few lines (below) from the Chicken Out! website as Hugh puts the point so well. So over to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and the Chicken Out Campaign.

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Roast chicken is an iconic dish in British culture. It probably ranks close to the top of most people's list of favourite foods. It may be affordable for the masses, but it is also fit for a king.

But how many of you know about the life your fresh supermarket chickens lead before they reach your table? That their short, intensively farmed indoor existence is managed like a factory production line, to ensure the big retailers can sell them to you for as little as £2 a bird? Is that all the life an animal, born and raised to feed us, is worth?


I would like to see the industry 'de-intensify' by lowering stocking densities and including environmental enrichment programmes in all its chicken sheds. Existing models for this reform include the RSPCA Freedom Foods system. I believe that this, or similar audited systems very close to it, should be the new minimum welfare standard for indoor-reared broiler chickens.

Supermarkets and fast food outlets should adopt these higher welfare systems as their new baseline standard, and should in turn insist that all their suppliers adopt them.

I would like the supermarkets to end their poultry price wars, as they put pressure on farmers to maximise the intensity of their operations. I also urge them to pay a fair price to farmers, for higher welfare birds, and to support them with clear labelling so that consumers can understand what they are paying for.

Above all, I would like to see more birds reared outdoors, on assured free range and organic systems. I believe this is the natural and appropriate way for a chicken to live.

I feel so strongly about our chickens that I'm launching a national campaign, which I'm calling Chicken Out! Part of it will be a new TV series on Channel 4, which will help you to understand the conditions in which most table birds are reared, and to put pressure on the industry to raise its standards. Chicken Out! is being led by River Cottage locals, especially in and around Axminster, who are boycotting intensively-reared chickens and choosing free range instead. I need you to do the same.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

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