Monday, 4 February 2008

Sunday Night Chicken and a lecture...

I love chicken, bronzed, crispy skinned and juicy. You can't beat it for Sunday lunch or Sunday evening with loads of bread sauce. I mean how beautiful does this little, well quite large really, bird look:

This is one of Waitrose's Poulet D'Or chickens. They are bred from slow growing French birds (a little like rare breed meat) so must be left for a minimum of 81 days so they taste like real chicken. They are fed corn and cereals as well as having unlimited daylight access to the outdoors to forage. They are kept in large barns overnight (1,300 per barn) and whilst they are chicks so it is not ideal but it is a close as I can get until Bobo earns more money and we can have a small holding.

Chicken welfare has been thrown into the public eye in the UK lately with celebrity chefs like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstale and Jamie Oliver trying to persuade the UK public to only by free range. The majority of chickens sold in this country are raised in large sheds which they never leave until slaughter time after 39 days of life. The chickens raised in these sheds have been bred to grow quickly in order to maximise profit and reduce costs. The problem is with rapid growth and unnatural conditions the chickens begin to suffer problems with their legs, lungs and hearts. This leads to about 5% of all chickens raised being culled before their 39 days are up, these chickens will never see a vet. These chickens also live about 40,000 to a shed.

It is well worth looking at the Waitrose web site to learn more about their chickens, they have videoed their 'Farm Assured' chickens to show how they are raised. Interestingly they have made improvements - increasing the natural day light, giving more room (although they do not say how mch more room) and they add things like straw bales to help with boredom. However the video does not show them once they get near to slaughter date so they seem to have lots of room and if you look at the chickens they all look shabby - feathers missing etc and quite lethargic.

Take a look at the organic free range chickens and you see a different story, you see real chickens running around plump and happy looking. These guys get to spend half their lives outdoors and aren't slaughtered for at least 70 days. They use a 'slow' growing bird - really a bird that grows at the right speed - so they do not have the issues with legs, heart and lungs (running around also helps these problems disappear).

What we should remember when buying chickens is they are all commercially produced so the conditions will never be a nice as we would like. At some point they will be cramped, many will die due to unnatural conditions and they will never taste as good as they will from a farmer that has only a few that get lavished with love. BUT you can and should know how your food is produced before you buy it so that you can decide if a chicken should cost £5.00 for 2 or if it should cost £10.00 for a free range bird or £19.00 like the Poulet D'Or ones.

Because I want taste and comfort that my chicken had tons of room in his shed and field and as long a life as possible I go for the Poulet D'Or ones every time. I just have less and use every last bit carcass included so a £19.00 chicken will feed the two of us 5- 7 meals roughly £3.00 per meal.

I think that as a nation we have become very lazy with the way we cook and eat because food is so cheap. We have become fat and unhealthy and very out of touch with nature if we think that a chicken should be 39 days old at slaughter and a pig at 3 months. Meat should be a treat not an every day necessity and so I think supermarkets should put their prices up and we should all think a little bit more about what we eat.

End of lecture! Please excuse the rant however this topic really winds me up! Anyway here is a piccie of Bobo about to tuck into the tasty chicken which I served with spicy lentils (GI diet thing) and peas because I was too lazy to do anything else....

The spicy lentils are really easy and although they look brown and uninteresting they are really sooo tasty.

250g Puy lentils

1 Onion

2 cloves garlic - finely chopped

1 - 2 chillies (however many you want) - finely chopped

Few strands rosemary - finely chopped

Glass red wine

1 Pint chicken stock

Wash the lentils, cover with water and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 10 mins until soft on the outside but still hard in the middle.

Finely chop the onion and fry in a little oil, when translucent add the garlic, rosemary, garlic and chilli. Fry all these for a few mins and then add the red wine, let this bubble away until you have about 2 tablespoons left then add the drained lentils. Stir them round and then add the stock, check for seasoning and chilli then leave the lentils for about 10 - 15 mins until they are al dente and most of the chicken stock has gone.

These are also great cold with cold chicken and salad....

1 comment:

Rufina said...

Keep up the good work.