Jamie's Dinners - Fowl but Fair?

UK - Once again, it seems that Channel 4 is out to shock its audience – this time amidst fears that it will do so at the expense of British farmers, reports FARMINGUK.
calendar icon 19 December 2007
clock icon 3 minute read

The controversy began when advance publicity of a special 'food season' revealed that Jamie Oliver would put people off eating battery chickens by showing how they were produced; the phrase used by Channel 4 that was immediately seized upon by virtually every newspaper was 'the hideous realities of industrial chicken production'. This naturally set alarm bells ringing amongst British farmers as they wondered what the collateral damage might be. Loosely targeted accusations of low welfare standards can shake consumer confidence in the whole industry.

However, Jamie Oliver himself has been quick to deny allegations that his programme aims to damage British farming. His message to farmers was the programme aims "to support British farmers and to give clarity to the British consumer about what is going on in the farming industry today, so that they may then make more informed choices."

Look out for this series, to be screened in January, which Channel 4 describes as 'stimulating, innovative and campaigning food programming' that will 'challenge people to think before they eat'. Battery farming methods look set to bear the brunt of the chefs' crusading; as well as coming under attack in Jamie's Fowl Dinners, they will also be the subject of a three-parter by Hugh Fearnley- Whittingstall (though the series is not exclusively devoted to poultry: it also includes a hard-hitting look at the effects of obesity, with anatomist Dr Gunther von Hagens dissecting a human corpse; a report on how British junk-food addicts cope when they are sent to Northern Pakistan to try the healthy diet of the Shimshai people; and a First Cut investigation into the 'Raw Food Diet', said to be the most extreme diet in Britain today).

Whilst all the indications are that Jamie and Hugh will be primarily concerned with poultry destined for the table, Andrew MacKenzie, head of factual entertainment at Channel 4, has already made a couple of specific references to egg production in his statements to the media – both very positive as far as Free Range is concerned, but ominous for the battery sector. "Jamie's simple message ... is, if you knew ... how your eggs are produced and what you eat, you would probably buy Free Range, organic chickens," he said. He also encourages consumers to look for Free Range not just in shell eggs but in foods containing processed egg: "Even people who buy Free Range chicken may not know that every time they eat cake, the eggs aren't likely to be Free Range, so they are essentially endorsing the battery hen."

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