AN ALARMIST piece from a serially paternalistic news outlet — published in February, now being recirculated — warns of the evils of chicken breasts with stripes: apparently, the danger is not the meat, but the fact it is battery farmed. Whilst this column would never recommend battery-reared chicken, those with a responsibility to report news should chill out. In any case, there are better options if such sensationalist rubbish really turns you off your chook.
You know it really is the silly season — and that even the silliest of news sites are scraping the bottom of the barrel for content — when the Twitter feeds and home pages of publications everywhere start reposting their “favourite moments” of (insert year here); there is a lot of subjective rubbish making a comeback thanks to this practice during these final few days of 2017, but for sheer crassness, something from one of Britain’s news portals really takes the biscuit.
“Stop eating chicken breasts with white stripes. Immediately,” screams the tagline on a tweet by The Independent, that even-handed, fair-minded, “independent” journal out of my beloved UK.
If it sounds like I’m being sarcastic there is a very good reason, because — back when I was publishing my currently mothballed political comment site — The Independent was a trusty go-to source for one-sided political “analysis” and comment; rank anti-Tory rants; a refusal to give credit where it was due, if doing so involved crediting a conservative of any description; and the entire moralising, finger-shaking diatribe so typical of the all-knowing, “intellectually superior” Left, whose actual superiority is non-existent and which, in this case, invariably misrepresented “independent” as a synonym for “impartial.” (There are plenty of other allegedly “independent” news organisations globally that do the same thing, just to be fair about it).
It should surprise nobody, therefore, that this finger-shaking goodness should extend beyond politics to…well, to…chicken. Readers can peruse The Independent‘s article about chicken — which it says is “loved for its leanness, adaptability and inoffensiveness” — here.
Inoffensiveness, indeed…it’s a bit like the kettle complaining because it’s blacker than the pot.
The two-sentence version of The Independent‘s article is: Chicken breasts with stripes of white fat running through them are from battery hens. Battery farming is bad, and therefore you must stop eating chicken immediately.
No health risk. No exotic disease of Chicken White Stripe or something similarly ghastly; just an agenda to push, and the same high-handed, prescriptive approach to food as the one The Independent takes all things political.
The voluntary vegetarian and vegan communities — not the ones who don’t eat meat for cultural or health reasons, but who choose to do so because it fits a political agenda — will be cock-a-hoop, of course; The Independent strikes a blow for the cause! (As they will all likely sit around afterwards and sing Kum-Ba-Ya together, however, the rest of us can leave them to it and get on with a discussion more securely based on common sense and sanity).
Mind you, I’d never recommend eating battery-reared chicken; for me it isn’t a question of the farming methods (although, clearly, any animal reared in such a fashion is hardly going to yield a premium product) but of quality and taste. The few times I have been unfortunate enough to eat intensively produced chicken the taste difference is enough to make me wonder whether it was past its use-by date when it was cooked.
And I’m not deaf to the argument that battery cages are cruel: note, per the previous paragraph, that I vote with my feet.
But there are people — millions of people — who, to have the opportunity to eat chicken at all, have no choice; not everyone is able to afford free range, organically reared chickens that cost two or three times the price of something out of the refrigerator cabinet at Sainsbury’s or Coles.
There are other people — tens or hundreds of millions of people — who would give literally anything for the opportunity to eat battery-reared chickens, or in fact anything at all, and these would be undernourished and starving inhabitants of third world countries that virtue signal factories like The Independent loudly proclaim their “compassion” for…at all other times bar a discussion involving the henchman-esque crusade against battery farmed chicken.
And all that aside, what about the good old-fashioned concept of consumer choice, whereby those who want to buy intensively produced products are free to do so, and those who don’t are free to do something else?
What about those people who just want to buy a cheap chook?
Never fear, says the Indy, for there aren’t any health risks to the pinstriped chicken — but “let’s hope more restaurants and supermarkets avoid factory-farmed birds.”
Quite. And with that brilliant declaration, we’ll move on.
There are worse things to worry about in the world of consumable poultry than factory farming; as the UK begins to feel its way through the likely substance and texture of its trading relationships once its exit from the European Union is finalised, one of the issues it has to consider is whether — in return for its goods and services being openly received into the United States — American poultry farmers should be allowed to flood the British market with chicken treated with high levels of antibiotics during rearing and rinsed in chlorine solution during processing and packing.
I know what I’d prefer.
Here in southern Australia, I can buy a free-range chicken grown in Bannockburn, near Geelong, that isn’t full of chemicals or antibiotics and is processed with iced water, not the chlorine bath, and it only costs about half as much again as its cousin in the supermarket freezer. Money well spent.
If British consumers are worried, of course, they’re close enough to France to buy the best: Poulet de Bresse, renowned across Europe and globally as the very best chicken in the world, but which is priced accordingly (upwards of £20 per kilogram in London markets I am told).
But even in Britain, there are plenty of other things people can eat beside chicken, which The Independent helpfully advises “is no longer as good for us as it once was;” British beef — forget about the stuff from Ireland — is seriously good eating, and a match for our clean, grass-fed Australian product. The cold waters around the UK produce a sensational array of seafood. British game — deer, rabbits, and of course, all the game birds such as pheasants and grouse and woodcock — are first-rate.
Seriously, should we have a campaign against the local fish and chippery because it might sell a piece of fish that was farmed?
Newspapers have a responsibility to report news fairly, responsibly and accurately. That includes their social media trails. The article I have shared today stretches a point to qualify on any of those grounds. It should more properly have been published as an advertorial for Compassion in World Farming — a group whose campaign the “story” is clearly designed to advance.
So if your chook has white stripes on its breasts and this scares the shit out of you, do the only sensible thing you can, and just eat it.
And if you don’t feel inclined to do so (and when it comes to the taste of battery chicken, I wouldn’t blame you) then a roasted venison loin with dauphinoise potatoes, braised red cabbage and all the trimmings would be my recommendation — if the histrionics of The Independent (and many others like it) haven’t scared you away from eating good red meat as well.
After all, the last thing we need is more vegans on the loose.