Now the dust has settled a little on Hugh Fernley Whittingstall’s excellent series of television programmes on the production methods of battery chickens, we are left with the following conclusions.
However the battery poultry industry wriggles, it has always been known that the conditions in which the birds are kept is appalling. But a silence seems to have been maintained up to now, as people in lower income brackets might have been priced out of the chicken market altogether, if they had to pay for the upkeep – and hence a realistic price – for humanely kept birds.
Only time will tell if memories of the programmes stick. A few recent visits by us to butchers and supermarkets showed that they had sold out of free-range and organic birds, while the displays of battery birds seemed to be untouched. If this continues, it could lead to the collapse of some companies rearing these battery birds – plus an extreme shortage of humanely produced varieties.
What we recommend is to treat the RSPCA's 'Freedom' badged birds as a baseline and change your eating habits to avoid basis battery birds (including Turkey's). When eating in ethnic restaurants, or other restaurants or burger bars, not giving provenance to the chickens in a dish – to avoid them, and choose another meat, such as lamb or beef – both of which should have seen fresh air. Many curry houses rely on boiling fowl. These are chickens, whose best egg producing days are behind them, and who have been subjected to lives in tiny cages. They will more likely than not have been killed by the Halal method, which is itself controversial.
One thing seems certain. The price of ethically-produced birds is set to rise steeply, as with the increase in world grain prices, free-range and organic producers have been working on minuscule profit margins for some time. The demand and supply process will also ensure rises.