Hugh’s Chicken Run: View from a butcher

It’s the issue everyone’s clucking about. Chicken. Yes, the plight of the humble broiler is on everyone’s lips thanks to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, but confusion for consumers is rife with labelling, terminologies and of course, price, still major issues.
One of those on the frontline of providing consumers with clear information about meat is John Mettrick from the award-winning butcher’s of the same name in Glossop. I asked him what he thought about the current controversy and for some advice on buying Britain’s favourite meat.
This is his blog post:

“Hugh’s Chicken Run has certainly stirred up the debate as to what chickens we should be eating.
“I am a firm believer that badly treated birds, or animals for that matter, will produce poor meat so anything that improves welfare has got to be good for the birds and the quality of meat produced.
“However, there are indoor systems that give much more space to the birds and plenty of daylight and these are a world away from the intensive broiler houses.
“We stock our birds from a local chicken farm on the edge of the Pennines. These are barn reared with more space than RSPCA freedom foods recommend and lots of daylight but inside.
“I am afraid that the climate in the south of the country is much less harsh than the north and lends itself more to free range systems.
“If our chickens had been outside this week, with the winds we have had, they would have ended up in Sheffield.
“As my chicken farmer says ‘they are chickens but they are not stupid’ and will not go out in bad weather.
“My supplier has his own abattoir on site and therefore there are no welfare issues with transporting live birds this is very important.
“I have visited a free range unit in a 5acre field where 495 were in the shed and five outside within a few feet of the entrance. I think the farmer was using a variety of chicken that just sits there and puts meat on.
“As you can see this is a complicated subject from a consumer’s point of view so, as my grandad used to say, ‘get to the fountain head’.
“Ask your butcher as much information as you can about his chickens. How are they kept? Are they local? Are they processed on the farm? These questions will help you make an informed choice.
“Good luck to Hugh on his campaign I hope he can make a real difference to the welfare of chickens in the long term.”

What’s your view? Join the conversation below.

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