With the second instalment of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s latest series being aired tomorrow night (Wednesday, 9pm), the British Poultry Council has responded to the first programme by accusing him of misleading the public on poultry welfare.
BPC chief executive Peter Bradnock said: “He [Mr Fearnley Whittingstall] is attempting to limit shoppers’ choice by making them feel that Red Tractor Assured Chicken Production (ACP) is ethically unacceptable, but the picture that his TV shows have painted is a long way from the reality of life for assured British chicken.
“The British public is looking for affordable food, particularly in today’s economic climate, but not at the expense of animal welfare. British chicken is produced to a set of rigorous and transparent standards under the ACP scheme, which are independently monitored from farm to pack.
High standards of welfare
Because it carries the supermarkets’ own labels, ACP chicken meets supermarkets’ high standards of welfare, husbandry, food safety and environmental protection and can be traced back to the British farm where it was reared by professional producers.
Mr Bradnock continued: “Indoor assured flocks have room to roam in clean barns. A nutritionally balanced diet, constant access to fresh water, fresh air ventilation and heating provide a protective indoor environment in which the chickens thrive.
“Producers pride themselves on the humane treatment of their flocks and agree that it is in no one’s interest for their birds to be unhealthy or mistreated. Good farm hygiene and careful management minimise mortality and incidents of disease, and the rates for ACP chicken are amongst the lowest of any chicken rearing system.”
He added that the high standards have benefited food safety with the salmonella record from UK indoor flocks being the best in Europe.
“Almost four-fifths of fresh British chicken is produced under the ACP scheme, which also covers free-range production. Assured free range sales have been growing steadily over the last two years, up 18% in the last 12 months, but from a very low base compared with sales of assured indoor chicken.”
Free-range chicken sales jumped in the period immediately following Mr Fearnley Whittingstall’s TV shows but, in April, free-range sales fell by 7% compared with the previous month. He believes that this suggests, that while these campaigns cause an immediate spike in consumer buying, the effect soon wears off. “We expect the previous steady growth to continue.”