Jamie Oliver

forum: Chicken

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#1 Wed 09 Jan 08 2:01pm

chixgbsdg

Member
Member since Mon 07 Jan 08

Comments on HFW's CH4 programmes

As Jamie is involved with Hugh Fearn-Whittingstall, I thought as an 'intensive' broiler chicken grower I would air my feelings for discussion. Some of this has already been discussed on other subjects, but I thought you might like some comments 'from the other side'.

I have seen 2 programmes to date and I first want to mention the comparison of the broiler chcikens with the free range in the same building.

1) The building doesn't represent the current state of the art units which are higher, brighter better ventilated and will provide a far better atmosphere and conditions for the birds.
2) He wasn't following the Assured British Standard which the industry now follows if the birds are sold to the retailers. Half an hour light in 24 that he quoted was a dead give away that he must have some 1950's information, similar to the site which must have been condemed.
3) He stocked 4000 birds in the side he wanted to make unattractive to his visitors, where as he placed 1500 birds in the free range. If he wants to compare a commercial stocking rate for each class of bird, they should be stocked about the same as the industry standard is 13 birds per m2 compared with the 17 I thought he put in the other side. These are maximum stocking rates only! So he should have placed 3000 in the free range side to be fair. (Twice what he actually did!)
4) I noticed he only showed cull birds in the broiler side and made a poor attemt at blubbing. The chicks would almost certainly have been from the same hatchery so there would have been the same culls in the free range half. No matter how the birds are kept, there are always a small percentage of chicks with either birth defects or runts.
5) Obviously the programme is made to show up the very worst of an intensive system, but what sort of people were his guests that became so distressed at the sight of the birds? All it told me was that the conditions must have been pretty dire, because I have shown literally hundreds of people round our site including parties of school children fron cities and NOT ONCE has anyone shed a tear. They are usually fascinated and I am bomarded with questions. So was it staged or were the conditions really that bad?

I could go on, but I would take up too much space.

Other questions I would ask is why didn't he take up an offer by a large company in the area to inspect their broiler sheds. On Radio 4 this morning, the owner said that HFW had declined the offer? He then made an issue that he wasn't allowed into any broiler sites anywhere!

Pity he didn't do the comparison in less than perfect weather conditions for the free range! I have seen birds shut up in sheds for 18 hours a day in winter in far worse conditions than in a controlled environment shed.

Will he mention one reason why birds were brought into controlled environment conditions which was to control Salmonella and Campylobacter (food poisoning bugs). These can't be controlled when birds run outside as they can't be kept biosecure. Free range birds have to be processed at the end of the day in the processing plants so that they don't contaminate the cleaner, intensive birds! I know the bugs can be killed by being cooked correctly, but the Food Standards Agency want levels lowered so that the raw meat doesn't contaminate people's kitchens.

One thing I do agree with is the point that chicken is ridiculously cheap. Chicken farmers are squeezed to produce for very little margin. The trouble is that I don't think there is any way round it. The first law of economics is supply and demand. So if Jamie and HFW can persuade people to spend more on their chicken meat I congratulate them, but history and economics tell us that price rules the day.

After a similar programme there was a survey done outside a supermarket. Shoppers were asked what type of chicken they would buy, cheap broilers or more expensive free range. They said they would spend more, but when the same people were asked what they had actually bought on the way out, they were tempted by the cheaper ones.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with these cheaper birds as long as they carry the Red Tractor Logo which signifies that they are grown to the ACP standard (as all fresh chicken in the supermarkets should be). They are British, they are safe to eat, they are not fed growth promoters, the are not fed GM materials and according to the experts and those that really understand the welfare of a chicken, they are grown in welfare friendly conditions.

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#2 Wed 09 Jan 08 5:26pm

Poet

Member
Member since Mon 07 Jan 08

Re: Comments on HFW's CH4 programmes

all this does is make me question the free range chicken I buy at the supermarket.  It does not assuage my opinion about intensive farming.

Two wrongs don't make a right.

If both (intensive and free range) are as bad as each other, as you say, then I am even more determined to find a LOCAL free range poultry farm, so I can see the conditions for myself.

I will only eat chicken in future whose provenance I am completely happy with.

I already buy organic lamb and beef from a local farm, who also slaughter/butcher on site so no stressful journies for the animals either, and buying in bulk makes it cheaper than the supermarket and the quality is 2nd to none!

For example, I got 6kg of diced, boneless lamb shoulder for £6.50 per kg, Tesco are doing organic diced lamb for £14.99 a kilo.  A BIG difference!  Even the farm's normal price of £8.50 a kilo is vastly cheaper.

I'd urge everyone to visit farmers' markets or google for local farms and buy in bulk if you can.

Last edited by Poet (Wed 09 Jan 08 5:29pm)

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#3 Wed 09 Jan 08 5:38pm

Poet

Member
Member since Mon 07 Jan 08

Re: Comments on HFW's CH4 programmes

chixgbsdg wrote:

...to the experts and those that really understand the welfare of a chicken, they are grown in welfare friendly conditions.

The RSPCA are experts in their field I would say, so I question your above comment.

Intensive broiler farming would NEVER meet the standards required for The RSPCA freedom food label.  Yes, chickens can be kept inside but the stocking density is lower and they are required to have an enriched environment, bales to perch on, room to dust bathe and stretch their wings etc.

The tide of public opinion is turning and hopefully stricter legislation will follow.

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#4 Wed 09 Jan 08 5:55pm

chixgbsdg

Member
Member since Mon 07 Jan 08

Re: Comments on HFW's CH4 programmes

Poet - hello again!

I am 100% with you on the local farmers market. You cannot beat properley butchered meat that is hung and cut up by a skilled butcher. I refuse to eat supermarket meat that is not hung and is butchered frozen on a bandsaw. I also agree about the poultry from that source as long as it is genuinely raised on that farm and not bought in - check that! Sometimes chicken is bought in from a local supplier which might not be the genuine stuff you think it is.

What I am keen to clarify is that Jamie and Hugh want people to buy free range and organic from the supermarket, which I know is no better than the standard stuff. It is marketed as being free range and all that, but that doesn't mean to say that it is more nutritious, better for you and more welfare friendly. It sounds it and to the uninformed it will be likened to your 4 lovely birds in the garden because that is what you imagine free range to be, but that is not commercial poultry farming which has to be done on a large scale (850 million birds ayear).

There are drawbacks in this less than perfect world to the organic / free range systems which are not brought out in these chef's programmes, probably because with their limited knowledge of the poultry industry, they don't want to see and probably don't want others to see.

Their main concern is to promote their own names so that they can get more promotional contracts, sell more books and generally make a success in life. Good luck to them. I am a business man as well, but I like to think that I don't try and ruin someone elses's business on my way to the top, especially when they use a lot of journalistic licence!

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#5 Wed 09 Jan 08 6:23pm

Poet

Member
Member since Mon 07 Jan 08

Re: Comments on HFW's CH4 programmes

this is why I think the raised awareness and debate that these programmes are instigating is a good thing.  It's made me question my notion of supermarket free range certainly!

I know there is a poultry farm near to where we get the girls pellets/mash, so we'll call in next time we go.

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#6 Wed 09 Jan 08 6:24pm

chixgbsdg

Member
Member since Mon 07 Jan 08

Re: Comments on HFW's CH4 programmes

Poet - Regarding the RSPCA Freedom Foods.

This is another standard to raise chickens to. I agree it is a very slightly higher standard. The stocking rate drops from 17 birds per metre to 15 (30kg /m2 at 2 kg per bird). Again, you would probably be horrified at that stocking rate. They require a few 'toys' to be included in the shed like footballs, which I question is of any real benefit, and they require some natural light, which again I'm not sure if that would persuade you to buy the chicken. We do do things that I think personally are more useful, like giving them whole wheat as well as the compound feed which is more natural for them to scavenge for and improves the workings of the gizard. That's what I call useful improvements and is a practice carried out by a lot of standard bird growers.

As a farmer, my job is to grow chicken that the shopper wants to buy. At present the people I supply have no market for a bird labelled such, but as you say, things are changing all the time, just like they did when the Red Tractor standard came in.

If Jamie and Hugh succeed in their quest, good for them, but I hope they tell everyone that they will be paying more for a chicken that is kept at 15 birds a metre rather than 17.

You stick to your local farm shop and make sure it is reared on site!!

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#7 Wed 09 Jan 08 6:25pm

Poet

Member
Member since Mon 07 Jan 08

Re: Comments on HFW's CH4 programmes

and I would like to add, I hope Jamie and Hugh are actually reading the posts on this forum or at least having the salient points relayed back to them.

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#8 Wed 09 Jan 08 6:39pm

Poet

Member
Member since Mon 07 Jan 08

Re: Comments on HFW's CH4 programmes

chixgbsdg wrote:

You stick to your local farm shop and make sure it is reared on site!!

I will and it is, this is them http://www.forsterorganicmeats.com/

they now do free range organic pork (which they didn't used to do) which is sourced from elsewhere so i'll ask them about that next time.

pity they don't do poultry, I'll have to ask them about too.

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#9 Wed 09 Jan 08 6:40pm

chixgbsdg

Member
Member since Mon 07 Jan 08

Re: Comments on HFW's CH4 programmes

Poet - It would be nice to think Jamie does read this. The sole reason I started coming onto this forum was because I wrote an email to Jamie directly, but all I got back was a standard reply from Jamie Oliver Ltd, Support Team. They just directed me to this forum.

Bit ironic when HFW was annoyed because he couldn't get replies from the supermarkets. But then what makes him so important that he should expect a reply, just like I am obviously not important enough for Jamie to reply to me personally!

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#10 Wed 09 Jan 08 6:45pm

Poet

Member
Member since Mon 07 Jan 08

Re: Comments on HFW's CH4 programmes

yes, I do agree, you should have received a proper response.

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