Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall says poultry industry should be more competitive with itself

TV celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall made a brief appearance at the Egg and Poultry Industry Conference earlier this week where he explained the thinking behind his TV programme back in January where he highlighted poultry rearing standards.

In a recorded message to 200 delegates at the Forest of Arden Hotel in Warwickshire, he said: “From the first time I stepped into an intensive broiler shed, I felt that this was not the way chickens should be raised.

“The first time I was taken around at Lloyd Maunder, one producer said he would love to have fewer birds in a shed, give them more room and offer enrichment. But he added that they are tied by the price set by retailers and fast food giants.

“Therefore, if things were to change, I realised I would have to create a new consumer who understood what was at stake and was prepared to pay a little more for higher welfare standards.

“But in order to change consumers, I had to take them inside a poultry industry that didn’t want me there in the first place. The poultry industry will change if the consumer changes and I know a lot of you didn’t like the programmes at the start of the year.

“One thing is for sure, the British chicken consumer now knows a lot more on how their chicken is produced and things have started to change.

“Firstly, I am a bigger fan of RSPCA Freedom Food indoor systems and you can’t argue with the lower mortality rates.

“So what is going to happen next? I think a lot is now down to you. What do you want from your chicken industry and do you want a closer relationship with the consumer? Do you want to communicate with them on the type of product you have, why it’s special and what makes yours better than the next one?

He continued: “I believe you need to get competitive with each other and improve welfare and the taste quality of chicken, so that chicken is not a bland commodity.

“I hope whatever you decide today, your one collective ambition should be to make British chickens the best tasting birds, raised to the highest standards in the world.”

The recorded message was part of a presentation given by Andrew Maunder of West Country processor Lloyd Maunder, part of the 2 Sisters Food Group.