Sunday, January 20, 2008

Chicken Out

Free Range ChickensDid you see Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Chicken Out programmes on television a couple of weeks ago as part of Channel 4s Food Season? If not there is an internet version.

Few people know about the conditions suffered by most broiler chickens - those reared for meat.
95% of the chicken eaten in the UK has been intensively farmed.
Farmers are under pressure to produce poultry as quickly and cheaply as possible - which means birds live short lives, in cramped conditions, without ever seeing natural daylight. They commonly develop severe injuries and disabilities, associated with unnaturally fast weight gain and restricted movement.
The plight of egg-laying, battery caged hens has received much attention in recent years, and consumers have responded, greatly reducing the proportion of bought eggs which come from intensive systems. 27% of UK egg production now comes from free range farms. Now it's time to do the same for broiler birds.
Read on here: click!


  1. I have been forwarded the following response from Redbridge council to a question from the local Green Party.

    The chickens we use for sandwiches, lunches and parts of the buffets are free-range Suffolk bred birds. The eggs we use are all barn eggs. They all come from a local (Blackheath) butcher.
    All the fresh meat we buy from Brakes has the British Tractor mark.
    I have attached Brakes' (our main processed food supplier) poultry welfare standards policy.
    Hope this helps

    Brakes position on poultry welfare

    As a responsible supplier of food, Brakes ensure all its poultry products comply with all relevant UK and EU legislation. This includes strict food safety and quality standards, traceability, and conformance to the legislative requirements relating to animal welfare.

    British poultry farming is a highly regulated sector and many of our suppliers, and suppliers to them, operate to the Assured Chicken Production (ACP) standard. This is an independently validated standards which poultry farmers are audited against to ensure the birds have:

    · Ready access to fresh water and a nutritionally sound daily diet and sufficient space to allow them to all feed at the same time;
    · Sufficient space, good quality housing and are kept in a safe, hygienic and comfortable environment;
    · The freedom to express normal behaviour by providing sufficient space to walk, turn, sit, preen, flap and stretch their wings, and dust bathe;
    · Been free from pain, injury and disease through prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment;
    · Been provided with living conditions and treatment that avoid mental suffering.

    Brakes is committed to supporting British farming and providing its customers with choice. Brakes was the first major wholesale distributor to carry the ‘Red Tractor’ Logo on its British ranges - Red Tractor identifies food produced under farm assurance schemes to the British Farm Standard – and a large proportion of our fresh poultry is produced under this scheme.

  2. 1) In the Brakes criteria above, I see no assurance that the birds have access to fresh air or sunlight and shade. So it's a description of battery-poultry farming, not free-range chicken rearing.

    2) The Chicken Out TV programme on Channel 4, called Hugh's Chicken Run, is still on. I caught one of the programmes Saturday evening at 5.30. It showed just how awful are the "ideal" conditions described by Brakes. Visitors to Hugh's battery farming shed came out weeping, and he's applying the industry standards as described by Brakes. At one point he wept himself, when he was forced to kill another of his own chickens to stop its suffering!

    So don't be fooled by the above description. Jamie Oliver was disgusted when he saw the condition of Hugh's battery hens and was an immediate convert to the Chicken Out campaign.

    3) Redbridge Council's assurance on Brakes' ACP standard is no assurance at all. Councillors should visit one of Brakes' "farms" and see for themselves. That would be a worthwhile investment of rate-payers' money!

    4) One of the nasty packaging practices highlighted by Saturday's programme was a colourful countryside picture on chicken packaging which fools people into believing they're buying free-range chickens when they're not. If I remember correctly, Tesco was the perpetrator of this phony packaging.

    5) I signed the Chicken Out petition months ago. I don't know if it's still up and running. If it is, it's worth signing. Hugh sends you occasional updates on his campaign.

  3. I agree with Coxsoft Art about the Brakes policy. I thought the fact that they use free range chickens for meat and cage free hens for eggs for council catering was good. But certainly room for improvement re: Brakes.