Sunday, 13 January 2008

The Ethical Chicken Debate

Manuscripts Don't Burn has noticed an appalling amount of condescension, snobbery, and bitterness bandied around the media and blogosphere over the past week on the subject of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver's attempts to highlight the disgusting state of our battery-farmed chicken industry. Clearly there are some deep-seated issues here.

Manuscripts Don't Burn knows several people who live on the breadline and eat mostly processed food - tins, centrifugally-harvested burgers, chicken nuggets, fish fingers, etc, etc. To our knowledge little or no fresh food enters their diet. It seems that this is not untypical.

Given that for a £6 free-range chicken one can feed a family of four for 3 days (roast chicken, curry, sandwiches, soup, in that order), processed food is clearly the more expensive option. So poverty, at least, is not the reason. If anything, a lack of cooking know-how, of confidence in buying and feeding oneself, and a dependency mentality on advertising and the slop doled out in ready-meals and burgers seem to be at the root of the "burger and chips Happy Meal" obesity epidemic which is raging through the poorer sectors of the Anglo-Saxon Empire. To poor to eat? Hardly.

From the price point of view, eating real food is not exclusive or beyond the reach of "poor" people. So Manuscripts Don't Burn would like to humbly request the Blogosphere to please drop this faux "guilt trip" that it's beyond the reach of those terribly hard-up poor people and start helping people get educated about the provenance and consequences of our badly screwed up food industry. The whole idea of "well, we have to have cheap and crappy food available so the poor can afford it" attitude is offensive.

Ban battery chickens. Most of all, ban the gross profiteering the supermarket middleman extort from the chicken farmers, who receive an average of 7 pence on a £2.50 battery chicken, and, yes, we can all suddenly afford to eat meat produced in a decent environment.

And stop the class-ridden snobbery, Britain, for God's sake.

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