Clucking Furious

Chicken

Too Many Chooks?

I wasn’t going to write anything for this month’s blog; I’ve already published a couple of papers outlining attitudes towards eating meat in the UK [1], detailing why these need to change in order to reduce our current consumption, particular when it comes to processed meats [2]. So I didn’t want to get all preachy and repeat the same message again. But then I read a story in the Nottingham Evening Post about yet another chicken joint opening in the city……..

“ The arrival of Pepe’s brings the number of finger lickin’ chicken outlets on this Nottingham street to SEVEN”[3].

…..and it kind of annoyed me. Because in my opinion, what Nottingham’s food scene definitely does not need right now is another faceless corporate food service chain, which has a high chance of going under in the first 12 months of trading, just like several others in the recently redeveloped clock tower part of the Victoria shopping centre. And as for competition being healthy, one consequence of this competition is the possibility of eroding the product quality (namely, the chicken), as margins are tightened to ensure that the respective management companies who own these shops make a profit. Good for consumers? That really depends on how much you care about the chicken you are eating. An online poll at the bottom of this excellent coverage in the Evening Post demonstrates that astoundingly, almost half of those surveyed (45%) don’t believe this new offering represents too many chicken options on this particular part of the high street [3].

It’s disappointing that when so many folk are working towards Nottingham being a Sustainable Food City[4], the City Council express such apathy toward the issue, stating that the type of food being sold is not a ‘material consideration’ as much as attracting retail occupiers to the units. I sense a lack of integration in policy terms between the planning department and public health here.  For a city like Nottingham which has so much creativity, vibrancy and passion in its many food offerings, it’s a bit of a cop out.  However proliferations of these types of food offerings are not unusual in cities and suburbs throughout the UK, and we are fortunate to have some of the best regulations in the world when it comes to our food supply chain (certainly for domestically produced poultry).

Chlorine Washed?

So, if this news made me unhappy, then the second piece of news this week really made me cluckin’ furious (‘scuse the pun!). It was not so much the row per se, which erupted over the proposal to  import US ‘chlorine washed’ chicken, but Liam Fox’s (UK’s International Trade Secretary) reaction, calling it a “detail of the very end stage of one sector of a potential free trade agreement”[5].

Oh well, that’s ok then. Who cares about circumventing the high food standards which we have spent decades and millions producing here in the UK, and which our farmers must uphold? If it’s going to make a few of us richer, then what does it matter? It’s only what we, the great British public will end up eating after all, so it’s a teensy consideration when brokering trade agreements with the big US.   And long term it’s really sustainable to be flying dead chlorine-washed poultry across the world (not), rather than ensuring that viability of an affordable supply of poultry from within our own shores.

Shame on you Mr Fox for exhibiting utter contempt for the people who you are supposed to represent. And with a nice Irish name like Liam too.

I never thought it possible to agree with anything that came out of Michael Gove’s mouth, but as Environment Secretary he has, thankfully, opposed the suggestion, and stated the importance of not compromising the UK’s position as leader’s in environmental and animal welfare standards in food production. Let’s hope he can firmly retain this stance, and in the meantime, try and ensure that we, as consumers, can support these efforts – whilst many of us cannot afford the luxury of organic or even free range chicken, we can all try and buy British.

 

  1. Clonan, A., et al., Red and processed meat consumption and purchasing behaviours and attitudes: impacts for human health, animal welfare and environmental sustainability. Public Health Nutr, 2015. 18(13): p. 2446-56.
  2. Clonan, A., K.E. Roberts, and M. Holdsworth, Socioeconomic and demographic drivers of red and processed meat consumption: implications for health and environmental sustainability. Proc Nutr Soc, 2016. 75(3): p. 367-73.
  3. Lynette Pinchess, The arrival of Pepe’s brings the number of finger lickin’ chicken outlets on this Nottingham street to SEVEN, in Nottingham Evening Post2017: Nottingham.
  4. Nottingham, U.o. Health, Food and the Environment: what do healthcare students need to know? 2017 [cited 2017; Available from: http://blogs.nottingham.ac.uk/sustainablenottingham/2017/03/28/health-food-environment/.
  5. Swinford, N.A.a.S., Liam Fox mocks concerns over chlorine-washed chicken and insists it is just ‘detail’ of trade deal with US, in The Telegraph2017: Online.