Now Poultry Producer Challenges Consumers

UK - In the week when celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall will be putting chicken production under the microscope, leading poultry producer Lloyd Maunder Ltd. is challenging consumers to change their shopping habits and buy the highest welfare chicken they can afford.
calendar icon 11 January 2008
clock icon 4 minute read

The Devon-based company is the UK's leading producer of ‘specialist' chicken, with 60 per cent of the 500,000 chicken it produces for supermarkets each week being reared in one of three higher welfare systems - free range, organic or Freedom Food.

Lloyd Maunder Ltd. was the only large scale poultry producer to work with Jamie and Hugh on the making of their respective programmes, facilitating filming for both on a number of the farms that produce poultry for it.

"It's all too easy to point the finger at the farmers and call the standard rearing system cruel which, by the way, it's not."
Andrew Maunder, commercial director of Lloyd Maunder.

“The UK has such an appetite for cheap chicken,” says Andrew Maunder, commercial director of Lloyd Maunder, “This means the system that produces a majority of the chicken we eat has to do so very cheaply. It's all too easy to point the finger at the farmers and call the standard rearing system cruel which, by the way, it's not. But the industry is only able to produce what people are prepared to buy. We need consumers to take responsibility for their food choices and shift from buying on price to buying on welfare.

“We're big fans of the RSPCA's Freedom Food indoor rearing system, and think it's the future for mainstream UK poultry production. A Freedom Food chicken only costs around a pound more than a standard chicken, which means people who buy it can have peace of mind without breaking the bank. As a producer we want to see higher welfare become an integral part of poultry production in the UK, but consumers and their purchasing choices control the market. If they change how they buy chicken, we'll be able to change how we produce chicken.”

At present, around 95 per cent of the chicken reared and eaten in the UK is produced in the Assured Chicken Production (ACP) standard, recognisable as British by its Red Tractor symbol. It's this system that is currently coming under fire from the likes of Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall for being too intensive.

The Freedom Food system being advocated by Lloyd Maunder Ltd. is defined and inspected by the RSPCA and sees slow-growing chicken reared indoors in an enriched environment, with more room and stimulation, including perching, straw bales and toys, even footballs.

“The Channel 4 programs have stepped up a long running debate, which we've willingly engaged in,” continues Andrew Maunder. “However I'll be very interested to see what of the footage and interviews they shot with us survive the edit suite. I hope both have kept the faith with UK poultry farmers, who work so hard to produce chicken to a high standard. Ultimately, it's the supermarkets and their customers which control the market we produce for.”

Lloyd Maunder Ltd. was the first to pioneer free range chicken production for the retail market in 1996 and then, in 2000, was awarded the first license to produce organic chicken under the Soil Association symbol. It developed a slow growing breed called The Devonshire Red specially suited to these higher welfare systems and, in 2004, introduced it to the Freedom Food system.

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