If you only have 15 minutes to spare this weekend, you must watch the video reportage from The Guardian on poultry factories.
Under the heading Revealed: the dirty secret of the UK’s poultry industry, it shows disgusting scenes from chicken factories and suggests that two thirds of chickens sold in the UK are contaminated with campylobacter. The report suggests that although the bug is killed by thorough cooking, around 280,000 people in the UK are currently made ill each year by it and 100 people die. It suggests that the contamination rates are known to have increased in the past decade.
My perspective of food changed completely after I read Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. It is since that summer of 2001 that I have never set foot again in a fast food chain. That book had a deep impact on how I viewed food. This new reportage in the Guardian just goes to prove that many years down the line, nothing has improved
There are a few lessons to learn from this reportage.
1. There is no such thing as a free lunch. If a deal is too good to be true, then it is. Unfortunately, many people fall into the trap of trusting the provenance of their food just on the basis that they can buy it from the supermarket or that it is attractively packaged. Many trust that if it is being sold then it has to be good. It is unfortunate because times are difficult and deals can therefore be very attractive but one needs to be cautious about the source of the produce they are buying,
2. It is better to enjoy meat (including chicken) every so often if you cannot afford it but ensure that when you eat it you go for free range or organic chicken. If a supermarket is selling a whole chicken for just over 3 Euros then you need to ask yourself some soul-searching questions before you even decide to buy it.
3. There have been too many food scandals in the past years which are eroding the trust of consumers. But so far, it does not seem to have an impact on the behaviour of consumers.
4. It might not be convenient to shop in your local shops. But everyone of us needs to make an effort to support our local shops rather than big chains since they usually know the precise source of their produce. Build a rapport with these shopkeepers. They are normally incredibly passionate about what they do. We owe it to our children that such stores survive.
5. We need to vote with our feet and show supermarkets that business as usual cannot go on as if nothing has happened. After the horse-meat scandal, one would have expected at least some basic checks. That this has not happened is rather shocking.
And for those who have never read or seen the documentary Fast Food Nation, here is the trailer of the film based on the book.
There is also Food Inc on the same theme.