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Dispatches: Supermarket Secrets


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I was revolted, and freaked out, watching this show last week. Part of me was smugly saying.."Oh, I don't have to worry about this because I only shop at Waitrose, and buy mostly organic"...but do I? They targeted Tesco, Sainsbury, Morrisons, and ASDA but not Waitrose. How can I be certain that buy buying the Organic chicken at Watirose, I would be not be buying something which had been intensively farmed? Oh I know, buy from a butcher, or from a farm, and I do as often as possible. However, for convenience sake, it is often easier just to do all of my shopping once, at one place. Oh gosh, just one more thing to feel guilty about now!

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hmmm.. I was watching this program while eating

it made for a very interesting experience :raz:

The thing that freaked me out was the conveyor belt machine in the chicken farm spewing out little chicks! watching that was just strange.

Thing is you can't really avoid this stuff, If you eat prepackage sandwiches, fast food, takeaways, in restaurants and ready meals.

"so tell me how do you bone a chicken?"

"tastes so good makes you want to slap your mamma!!"

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[

Thing is you can't really avoid this stuff, If you eat prepackage sandwiches, fast food, takeaways, in restaurants and ready meals.

http://www.allium.uk.net

http://alliumfood.wordpress.com/ the alliumfood blog

"Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, champagne in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming - Whey hey what a ride!!!, "

Sarah Poli, Firenze, Kibworth Beauchamp

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hmmm.. I was watching this program while eating

it made for a very interesting experience  :raz:

The thing that freaked me out was the conveyor belt machine in the chicken farm spewing out little chicks! watching that was just strange.

Thing is you can't really avoid this stuff, If you eat prepackage sandwiches, fast food, takeaways, in restaurants and ready meals.

That's a point that has had me thinking a lot recently. While I would never buy one of those £2 plump chickens you get on special offer at Tescos, opting instead for Free Range / Organic whole chickens or chicken pieces, I will still order a chicken tikka from an Indian, a chicken sandwich from M&S, maybe even Chicken McNuggets. This inconsistency in demanding ethically reared chickens does perturbe me, but the alternative - always avoiding any chicken that is not of assured provenance - is too impractical for me, because it would prevent my ever consuming chicken, indeed meat in general, which does not have a clear provenance.

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chicken and pork are the two meats i never eat unless i know the provenance of them (and i am very fortunate to have a fantastic organic farm 5 minutes from where i live). if that means i never eat chicken or pork in an indian, or in a sandwich, then thats something i can deal with. as for chicken mcnuggets, eat those and you deserve all you get ;)

in situations where i cannont be sure of meats provenance, and for me that usually means indian restaurants, i always eat lamb as lambs tend to not be so intensively reared

i didn't see the show in question, but it sounds just like a panorama i made about 7 years ago, seems somethings never change!

Edited by fisherman (log)
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It's pretty sad that this is a problem which gets raised over and over again, but doesn't seem to result in any change. Perhaps it is is because of some of things which have been mentioned (i.e., people just raising their hands up and saying , oh well, can't do anything about it). I have been very choosy about chicken that I personally buy to cook at home, but I didn't even think about the many chickeny things I purchase outside (i.e., takeaways, chain restaurants of the Nando's type).

I did make a decision to avoid ordering chicken, except at good restaurants. Sad, chicken has now become a luxury dish.

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I was revolted, and freaked out, watching this show last week.  Part of me was smugly saying.."Oh, I don't have to worry about this because I only shop at Waitrose, and buy mostly organic"...but do I?  They targeted Tesco, Sainsbury, Morrisons, and ASDA but not Waitrose.  How can I be certain that buy buying the Organic chicken at Watirose, I would be not be buying something which had been intensively farmed?  Oh I know, buy from a butcher, or from a farm, and I do as often as possible.  However, for convenience sake, it is often easier just to do all of my shopping once, at one place.  Oh gosh, just one more thing to feel guilty about now!

I raised a similar issue on the Full on Food thread. Free range doesn't necessarily mean organic and vice versa.

"Why would we want Children? What do they know about food?"

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Sad, chicken has now become a luxury dish.

My understanding from my grandparents is that this is exactly what it used to be. It's factory farming that has made chicken into the cheap, anonymous, flavourless protein it is today.

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I watched this documentary, I do remember seeing a similar program some time ago (possibly Panorama). I have friends and family who are invovled in agriculture and I think that perhaps the program did not reflect the attitude of farmers in general. Admittedley within agriculture the poultry side of things does have a worse reputation than livestock, possibly due to the numbers of animals invovled and their size. but all the farmers I know do care a great deal about the welfare of their animals.

Ulitimately people want cheap convienient food and the supermarkets (and therfore farmers) will continue to provide it while that demand is there.

Possibly this attitude is slowly changing for example M+S only use free range eggs in all their products, but when you see see which supermarkets are enjoying the most growth and profits ( ie Tesocs & ASDA) it is obvious that the 'pile em high sell em cheap' philosophy is still king.

There is a second installment of the program this week which I imagine will be equally grim.

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M&S only use free range eggs but the chickens are mostly not free-range. I had assumed (because of the eggs) that they were but noticed yesterday that even their "premium" chicken (Oakham Gold?) had those marks that the programme told you about. I then noticed (for the first time - not sure if it is new?) that they had a few free range chickens on sale. I will definitely be trying to go for these in future.

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I watched it last night and was very dissapointed. I thought the case they made was very weak - a few animal actvist films, and some disgruntled farmers complaining about the prices the supermarkets pay, and how dependent they are on their distribution. When, in any age country or time, have farmers not had similar complaints? Yet few, despite sucessful examples, set up their own co-operatives and distribution.

Some of their points were just off-beam: people and pay a premium pre-prepared foods - pre packed salad was one example - for a variety of reasons - they may be time or skill poor, or they may need only a smaller amount than the whole product.

I thought the sins they picked on were weak compared to the ones they could: high salt and sugar levels, indigenous salmonella in poultry, exploitation of cheap labour markets etc.

The comparison to the the romantic ideal of shopping at the local grocer was also misleading, especially for people living in cities. I doubt if the foods in that grocer had any less levels of pesticide, less food miles or less exploitation than now. In fact I suspect the opposite was true, since in those days people were much less aware of the problems, and harmful pesticides, like DDT were common. Levels of hygine and food standards were much lower. Now we have local farmers markets, organic labelling inspections and schemes, veg box schemes all of which were unknown when I was growing up.

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The comparison to the the romantic ideal of shopping at the local grocer was also misleading, especially for people living in cities. I doubt if the foods in that grocer had any less levels of pesticide, less food miles or less exploitation than now.  In fact I suspect the opposite was true, since in those days people were much less aware of the problems, and harmful pesticides, like DDT were common. Levels of hygine and food standards were much lower.  Now we have local farmers markets, organic labelling inspections and schemes, veg box schemes all of which were unknown when I was growing up.

Good points. I think that the bottom line is that it is the consumers that ultimately control animal welfare, hygiene and food standards and I didn't think that this point was well made.

I have had numerous disscussions after the first show with non-foodie Brits and by and large the are revolted by the conditions they saw at various chicken farms and specifically there was no way to telling a 'good' farm from a 'bad' one at the basic level. But they were also not willing to pay £8 for a chicken.

As Jack said, British people have more choice availble then ever before. But they have other things to think about other then the welfare conditions of the source protein in their chicken tikka marsala.

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The comparison to the the romantic ideal of shopping at the local grocer was also misleading, especially for people living in cities.

Yes, I've always thought it odd the way journalists tend to equate the supermarket movement and the closure of local shops with a move away from local sourcing and 'ethical' farming and towards the corporate. Although this was doubtless once the case, the kind of Arkwright stores that have been swept away by the supermarket were so often repositories for the terrible, mass produced corporate rubbish that nestle, heinz, kellogs, findus, er.. fray bentos, etc. have been churning out for decades. Supermarkets, in contrast, have (however cynically) been instrumental in bringing organic food, a massive variety of produce and an unprecedented awareness of global cuisines and ingredients to the masses. Farmers' markets and gastronomically-minded independents have surely benefited from this.

Edited by adt (log)

Ian

I go to bakeries, all day long.

There's a lack of sweetness in my life...

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(I hasten to add I've not seen the programme, so I've no idea how organic and ethically produced a Tesco organic chicken really is... I've certainly no love for the Soil Association, which seems to be a highly corporate, cynical propaganda machine)

Ian

I go to bakeries, all day long.

There's a lack of sweetness in my life...

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<snip> Supermarkets, in contrast, have (however cynically) been instrumental in bringing organic food, a massive variety of produce and an unprecedented awareness of global cuisines and ingredients to the masses. Farmers' markets and gastronomically-minded independents have surely benefited from this.

Supermarkets don't lead consumer demand, they respond to it.

In the early 90s, the supermarkets experimented with organic products and found that their punters weren't willing to pay the premium, so they concluded that there wasn't sufficient demand. This market research informed the supermarkets' advice to government when it came to setting targets for the percentage of farming land that should be returned to organic agriculture by the end of the century, which resulted in the UK setting the lowest target in Europe.

Then came a succession of food scares, and the Great British Public decided, en masse, that maybe it was worth paying a bit more for better food. Those at the van of this movement - who tended to be well-informed and affluent - provided a customer base for organic supermarkets like Planet Organic and Fresh & Wild. As last night's programme explained, the 4 big supermarket chains are expert at giving us what we think we want, so they responded with alacrity. Of course, there wasn't enough organic produce in the UK so a lot of it had to be imported (further bumping up the price and undermining the environmental benefits of eating organic).

The implication that supermarket operations are in any way altruistic is naive and the description of the Soil Association as a 'a highly corporate, cynical propaganda machine' is risible. Surely you mean highly principled and idealistic campaigning organisation?

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the description of the Soil Association as a 'a highly corporate, cynical propaganda machine' is risible. Surely you mean highly principled and idealistic campaigning organisation?

Sorry, my mistake! :biggrin:

I buy mostly organic food - indeed, I only avoid it when the food miles benefit of buying local/British produce seems to outweigh the organic benefit. As you rightly say, the supermarkets import far too much of their organic range, and I respond by not buying it.

I used to be a member of the soil association, but in recent times their website and whole attitude has become nauseatingly agency-driven and cynical, and their claims increasingly outrageous. Rather than concentrating on ecological issues, they seem to have an incredible focus on the spurious health and taste benefits of organic produce. I'm skeptical enough about the former, and plenty of SA-certified produce is very much inferior in the latter respect to good quality non-organic produce.

As far a supermarkets are concerned, I don't believe they are remotely altruistic, I think them entirely cynical, and am not surprised at their initial negative impact on the organic movement. However, I think that what I said is none-the-less true, the supermarkets were an essential medium for bringing awareness of organic produce, global cuisine ingredients, etc. etc., to the masses. Of course, they did not lead it, they just brouhgt it into people's lives, in a similar way to the medium of television (another evil). I don't think it would have happened so quickly and effectively in a country of Arkwrights' stores.

Ian

I go to bakeries, all day long.

There's a lack of sweetness in my life...

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I watched it last night and was very dissapointed. I thought the case they made was very weak - a few animal actvist films, and some disgruntled farmers complaining about the prices the supermarkets pay, and how dependent they are on their distribution. When, in any age country or time, have farmers not had similar complaints? Yet few, despite sucessful examples, set up their own co-operatives and distribution.

I totally agree.

I watched all of the first show and half of the second and As a journalist, I thought it wasa a very poor piece of journalism. In fact, it was more propaganda for the organic movement as opposed to a balanced piece of work (and I say this as a regular buyer of organic food).

Some comments were just snide jabs at supermarkets (pre-washed salads, pre-chopped veg) for being expensive but if people want to pay those prices that is not the supermarket's fault. Other things like the shots of factory farming were accurate but just plain old and hardly groundbreaking investigative reporting.

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