Dispatches: Supermarket Secrets from Channel4.com
I watched this truly eye opening programme last night and really do not think I can face eating another supermarket chicken, or chicken product, ever.
Due to the pronouncement about thirty years ago that we should all eat less red meat and eat more white, demand for chicken went through the roof. As a consequence to that, chickens were bred, and special feeds produced, to make them bulk out in half the time.
It seems that although their body bulk increases faster, their bone structure does not and we were treated to film of an average, 'acceptable' factory farming shed, full of very large, very young chickens whose legs were not developed enough to hold them up. Those that could stand, waddled, very few even hopped, the best seemed as disabled as any morbidly obese human.
Those that couldn't stand were trampled, and died of those injuries or of dehydration, being unable to reach the food and water hoppers. Although there are 'standards' regarding the sale of a whole carcass, apparently they are not so stringent regarding portions like chicken breasts and the suggestion was made that disease free but damaged chickens (obviously in pain) were used for that market.
I put standards in inverted commas for a reason. The birds are in a shed, with a concrete floor. On top of that is litter (like kitty litter) so the whole shed becomes one giant, unwashed litter tray, full of excrement and producing plenty of ammonia. Its seems that 82%, almost every single bird, suffer painful burns from this - where the legs, if not also the breast, are in too frequent contact with this vile cocktail.
When you buy a pre-packed chicken, check the leg joints - the 'knees' or hocks trail in the acrid poop mix and exhibit brown scorch marks on the scales known as hockburns, even deep enough to go right through layers of scaly skin into the muscle.
If the scaley skin has been cut away at that point too, you are certain to have bought a chicken that lived a very short life in a cramped, dark and pungent shed, but also in pain.
If all that doesnt move you, then consider the fat content.
When chicken meat was first recommended, the animals tested were active, healthy birds; the athletes of the farmyard, running around all over the place. They had strong bones and a low fat content. Of the fat there was, a high proportion was omega 3 - essential for brain development.
Factory chickens produce masses more fat - they have nowhere to run, their legs often can't carry them anyway, and of the fat content, the omega 3 has shot down, in proportion.
The researchers bought a couple of the best grade chickens at all the major supermarket chains and sent them for testing. Each and every one produced a whole jam (jelly) jar full of fat and precious little protein, because of the farming methods.
You now get more fat than protein from a piece of chicken.
One of the eminent interviewees suggested a direct correlation between the loss of omega 3 in the diet over thirty years, and the increase in mental health problems in young people.
Last but not least, obviously, chickens get diseases. There is one disease passed on by tiny cysts in the bowel movements.
Because the floors of the sheds are the way they are, there is a high chance that other chickens will peck at the diseased faeces. I guess a chicken's nature is to peck at seedlike things on the floor, rather than in a hopper.
So they drug the food.
They drug it with a chemical which is currently under review as potentially more dangerous that first realised.
The drugged food is replaced with normal food only one week before the animals go to slaughter, but traces are still there in the liver and meat, when the creature is sold. The final micrograms per kilo of meat is only half the current allowed level, but the operative word there is current. And if it's still in a chicken's system after a week, well then once you've eaten it, its going to stick around inside you, too.
Our local butcher closed down. One of the owners retired and the supermarket had taken most of the trade, so now we have no choice but to eat this plumped, damaged, fatty, unhealthy rubbish. I can now tell a good, healthy, nutritious chicken from a bad one by sight, but its not going to be of any use.
This morning I feel mostly.......................shafted.