Monday, February 04, 2008

What's the matter - are you Chicken?

I have picked up the Manly sweater again this morning, only time for a row and a half before work, but it is back as my current WIP. Well, it’s the one on the sofa anyway. I had a bit of a sort out of my knitting hold-all thingy last night. I took all of the random yarn I bought over the past month or so and stashed it properly in my yarn chest. I have too much yarn for it to properly fit in the chest, so I need to get knitting (or think up a new way to organise the yarn – I’m sure there’s a better way!)

I have only one set of sock-needles, they’re fabulous surina wood. They bend rather than snapping, which is good. I have been considering getting a second set, but I am not sure about it. (If I do, I may go back to knitterbabes on e-bay because they do kits with yarn, needles and markers at a really good price)

I don’t usually talk about *issues* on my blog, but I wanted to talk about my New Year’s Resolution, my Change One Thing.
I have been discussing with the OH about why resolutions fail, and as advertised for the Boots campaign, Change Just One Thing is the answer. If you try to lose weight, eat better, exercise more, quit smoking, keep the house tidy, wear nicer clothes, spend less. . . it becomes too much.
So, my one thing? well, I watched Jamie Oliver’s special about chickens. I watched Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Chicken Run. I realised that I had two choices, stop eating chicken all together, or be a lot more picky about my chicken (and eggs).
I can’t describe, to anyone who hasn’t seen the conditions that a standard chicken is kept in, how horrible it seems. These fast growing chickens who never see daylight and are killed (wasted) because they’re a bit small, or because their poor little legs can’t support their grotesquely huge bodies. They live in a barn which is never cleaned out, eating and eating for 23 hours a day. It’s barbaric.
I would like to say that if it were any other animal we’d be more caring, but sadly I don’t think that is true.
Now, there is a new standard, called Freedom Foods which is a little better. It’s still not perfect, the birds still never see the outside world. It’s a more affordable option for those on a budget though, and it is probably the future of mass-produced chicken.
So, what about other options? Well, my preferred choice is Organic, as certified by the British Soil Association. There’s more to this than just the birds eating organic meal, they have to be free to roam in mottled shade (bushes or trees) and have a safe shed for the night time. they use slower growing birds which don’t have the risks of their legs developing too slowly for their weight.
If you want to read more, there are articles like this one at WhyOrganic. I’m sure that there are some opposing views, but I have no links to them. (Sorry, not very balanced I know).
So, where was I? Oh yes, my resolution. I will not buy any chicken, duck or other poultry, or eggs that have been intensively produced.
Now, there’s a bit more to it than that, of course. I’m also trying to only buy outdoor reared pork, lamb and beef, and all with the British Farm Standards mark (that little red tractor which means “farmed in the UK”). In the case of poultry it should be organic – that’s the only way to ensure the standards. (If I can get organic pork, beef and lamb I will!). I’m only buying British vegetables (which means that I’m eating a lot of root vegetables at the moment!) and in some cases organic (usually leeks at the moment!).

Now, I am sure that some of you are thinking, if you’re so concerned about the animal welfare, why aren’t you a vegetarian? which is a fair question.
By being vegetarian I would be making less of an impact in the marketplace and also making a massive impact (lifestyle and health) upon myself. I like eating meat! I believe that if I switch to organic this is making more of a statement that stopping eating meat. Think of it like this:

If I normally buy a chicken grown in hideous conditions in a small shed for £2.50 (the shame) then I’m putting £2.50 into the industry I dislike.
If I don’t buy any chicken at all, I am simply not spending the £2.50.
If instead of buying the nasty chicken I buy a free range organic chicken for £6.00 then I have put an additional £3.50 into the market. This then affects the amount of profit that the shop I bought the chicken from makes, which in turn affects what they buy in to stock.
If it is seen to be profitable to rear chickens (and other animals) in a better environment then more shops will buy in these types of stock and then more farmers will be able to afford to switch to organic (or at least free range) and therefore we’ll all have much tastier chicken! (Trust me, it’s got lots more flavour to it!)

I should admit at this point that I do have a soft spot for chickens. I think that they are such lovely creatures. They can be friendly too, you know! I hope one day to have a couple of laying hens (I don’t know about owning my own meat-chickens, I would probably get too attached) and if I do they’ll be of a crazy breed!

Here’s an example of the kind of chickens I like
 Chatsworth Chicken I saw this one at Chatsworth house. It’s cute isn’t it? I especially like the feathered feet!
I also like some of the other breeds, but the fluffier the better! Haha.

So, anyway, that’s my change one thing. I’m going to extend the one thing every so often (when I think I’m ready!), so for January it was just only buy free range chickens and eggs For February it’s Only buy Organic Free Range Poultry and Poultry produce, only buy UK farmed meat and vegetables
I hope one day to be able to source all of my yarn locally too. If I ever get round to learning to spin there’s a vague chance that I could spin my own yarn from UK fleece! How nice would that be? I gather that you need 5 acres to grow your own sheep though, which is probably a bit out of my reach. Angora bunnies are a different story…

Other links that might be of interest if you want to find out more about farming and animal welfare in the UK. I’m not saying I agree with everything said through these links, just that they make good reading for a perhaps more rounded view…
Welfare standards for Chickens certified “free range”, “freedom food” and “organic”
The Guardian – The Green Way to Eat (the comments are hilarious!)
Biodynamic Farming

1 comment:

Dianne said...

I admire the choices you are making. Hooray for you, and for UK chickens! (Chicken Run is one of my favorite movies) I gave up eating chicken when I got a dozen little chicks as pets. That will be 11 years ago this April. Sadly, only two of the chickens are still among the living. I still buy & eat eggs, but only from free-range, organic sources. I really liked having my own source of eggs right in the backyard, but they stopped laying regularly about 8 years ago!