Wednesday, July 16, 2008

un poulet n'est pas toujours un vrai poulet

I know, two posts in one day, can you tell I'm sitting at home at a bit of a loose end?

Always on the hunt for a new blog, I recently came across The Belly Rules The Mind, where a happy chappy from the West Midlands talks about all the normal things that food bloggers do. One of his recent posts related to a chap by the name of Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall. I don't how wide a presence Hugh has outside of the UK, but he's basically a celebrity chef, who goes on a lot about sustainably and local, organic food shopping. I think he also did a show where he grew his own produce in some rather nice home counties mansion or something. What he's on about are things normally very dear to my heart, but he can be a bit pompous.

Anyway it was on Belly Rules The Mind that I discovered there'd been a bit of a hoo ha in the UK when Hugh raised the issue of factory raised chickens in the UK, which were selling for one pound ninety nine at Tescos (one of the country's largest supermarket chains).

I've seen the HFW story on a couple of sites now, with various arguments being floated about. The discussion has included:
  • this method of raising animals is inhumane and basically wrong
  • large scale food production such as this produces sub-standard food, sold to the poor resulting in poor nutrition, leading to poor physical and intellectual growth (ie. the rich get richer and the poor get poorer)
  • the poorer sections of society can only afford to buy this standard of food in the attempt to clothe/house/feed their families in the current economic environment
  • those who are not comfortable in the kitchen use low cost, mass produced food products as their main source of nutrition for themselves and their families
  • HFW is a bit of a tool, and it's very easy for him to take the moral high ground from his Chelsea flat, and is totally out of touch with the shopper on the street
Quite frankly, I can see both sides of the story, I've been the struggling student, and have eaten some seriously cheap food to get by, but have never had to worry about how my low finances effect anyone other than myself (ie I've never had to feel children on a low budget). On the other hand, although I am a dedicated omnivore and believe it is part of my genetic makeup to be so, I think we have an obligation to ensure that the animals that we eat are treated with some level of dignity before they are killed for consumption. Added to this is the argument that western consumers probably consume too much animal protein, and we should be looking to increase the plant content of our diets. Not only to make us healthier but also as large scale livestock production consumes too much arable land as centralised populations take over more and more of the earth, and produces considerable amounts of greenhouse gasses.

And this can be related back to the 'what we feed our kids' arguments. Is feeding your children chemical loaded meat from unhappy animals (the karma police will get you) really the best thing for them. Wouldn't it be better to bake them up some vegetables, or make a chickpea salad or lentil stew? 'But not everyone knows how to do this' I can hear the devil's advocate say. Well i say, tough cookies sweetheart. I'm not asking parents to enjoy cooking the way I do. To spend their whole Saturday putting together some gourmet creation for their families. But if you've taken on the responsibility of having children, you have a responsibility not to feed them things that will make them sick. This means high levels of fat, sugar, salt and e-numbers. Surely this is child abuse? Just as bad as making them sleep on the floor or depriving them of an education. They put this crap inside them for god's sake. Basic, nutritional, sustainable food cooked into simple to prepare meals is within reach of all but most unlucky of western society.

I would love to hear opinions.....

1 comment:

Kate said...

I agree - we have a responsibility to ensure that even the cheapest options are of a fair nutritional and welfare standard. Would you like to attach your favourite chicken recipe to this post and enter the Let Them Eat Chicken food blogging event, by any chance ... (if it's not too cheeky of me!)?