Chicken scandal: your thoughts
In the September issue of delicious. magazine Andrew Webb’s rant about chicken provoked a slew of rallying responses from you. Here, we share his words on tasteless chicken, your views on his rant and a response from the author.
We need to talk about chicken
Roast chicken was once a special and flavourful treat. Now, boneless, skinless chicken breasts are the magnolia wall paint of the meat world. How has this noble bird been laid so low?
Do you like chicken? Of course you do. Everyone does, right? What does it taste of, then? Close your eyes and describe its flavour and aroma. Not that of gravy, or the spicy sauce slathered on it, or the crisp texture, but the actual taste of proper chicken? Tricky isn’t it?
How, dear reader, has our chicken become nothing more than a texture, a carrier for other obfuscating flavours? Few food products make me as mad as ‘dishes’ that feature skinless boneless chicken breasts. Thick skin and strong bones are where the flavour is, for crying out loud. The worst of these sorts of dishes are things like pesto chicken.
Punchy pesto is designed for bulky bland foods like… pasta! When chicken has become so bland, flabby and tasteless you have to smear it in a gloopy sauce for it to taste of anything, you know something’s wrong.
Instead of consumers applying pressure to producers and retailers to improve processes, we let them ‘address the problem’ by attaching a little sticker that reads ‘Don’t wash poultry’. That’s it, a sticker.
You obviously love good, tasty, well-produced food; that’s why you read delicious. So I want to end on a positive note about how good chicken can be. The best chicken I’ve eaten was a 100-day-old bird. It tasted of chicken. It needed slow cooking. It fed eight of us and its large and meaty thighbone was nearly six inches long.
When it comes to cheese or beef, we accept that time is an ingredient that ages and deepens the flavour. It’s time we started to demand that for chicken. Who’s with me?
Click next to read what our readers said about Andrew’s chicken rant…
What you said:
Dear Andrew Webb
I’m with you! Your article in delicious. was concise, and focused on the (arguably) most important downsides of our consumption of factory-farmed chicken. You didn’t even get on to the animal welfare aspects of the industry or the wider implications of the over-use of antibiotics as growth-promoters. No room on the page? The editors could have given you a little more space by omitting the sentimentalised little picture of a proud cockerel strutting before his doting harem! I look forward to your follow-up articles.
I wholeheartedly agree with Andrew Webb. When I was a child in the ’50’s, chicken was a rare and wonderful treat usually only afforded at Christmas or Easter, and my word what a treat it was! One large golden bird glistening from the oven and accompanied by my mum’s legendary roasties would feed seven of us and fill the house with the most amazing aroma! I only have one small quibble with Andrew – where did he find the glorious chicken he described in his article? I WANT one!
Mrs Veronica Newton
Andrew Webb left me hanging. I’m with him but don’t know where we’re going. I haven’t eaten chicken since I read in delicious. that even free-range organic chickens only live for weeks before they are slaughtered. In my naivety, I’d thought that if a chicken was free-range and organic that it had led a long and happy life before ending up on my plate. I just can’t justify eating it now. I’d feel like the final stage in a production line. So, I’d like to ask Andrew what our two-person army needs to do to start the revolution? Long live the chicken!
I bought my first issue in June (I know, I am ashamed), by July I’d subscribed and the September issue is my first issue by post and already I’m writing in!
I love chicken, actually I love birds. Turkey, poussin, guinea fowl… but where to buy them? In the UK, if you are a conscious shopper and eater you can buy great meat from butchers and farmers’ markets. I’m lucky enough to have a tiny independent farm where I get beef, pork and lamb but birds seem to be supermarket only. I want organic, free-range, happy poultry but cannot find a local supplier. Where can we buy this wonderful meat in the knowledge that it hasn’t been locked in a barn, deprived of daylight with no access to water or a pond? It’s a great article by Andrew Webb and I, for one, am with him!
I totally agree with Andrew. We should raise our chickens more humanely and for longer and be prepared to pay more for them. Our superb Barry the Butcher in Stratford upon Avon does large Shropshire chickens for about a tenner. Great flavour and texture and we get three meals and great stock for a soup from one bird.
Nigel and Anne de Gay
Yes, we absolutely need to talk about chicken. It is appalling to think that it takes less time to for a chicken to go from hatching to slaughter than to have curtains made. No wonder these chickens have a reduced nutritional value, have more bacteria and are tasteless. When I was young, chicken was a special treat. It was raised properly and as such, was costly to rear and buy but it was a tasty, rare feast and all the better for it. The insistence of providing cheap meat is an anathema and the sooner people realise that, the better. If we don’t have respect for the animals we breed for food and be prepared to pay the price for properly reared animals, why should we expect anything else? I’m with Andrew Webb, without a doubt!
What Andrew said:
It’s great that my piece struck such a chord, although I feel I only just scratched the surface. I could easily have gone on for another few pages. I’m delighted readers care as much about animal welfare and farming issues as they do about making tasty food. After all, good cooking starts with well produced ingredients, and by voting with our purses (and tastebuds) we can make chickens’ lives happier.
At the moment the industry isn’t offering us much; a 42-day-old bird that is either organic, free-range, or standard – that’s it. Could you imagine wine, bread or chocolate having such limited choice? We should stop buying poorly-produced chicken until the industry can clean up its act and give us better quality birds that actually taste of something. That’s something I think many of us would be be prepared to pay for. ”
Our chicken recommendations:
We recommend buying chicken from your local butcher or through trusted mail order companies such as pipersfarm.com and thoughtfulproducer.co.uk. Andrew also recommends The Ginger Pig (London) or freerangebirds.co.uk.
Find lots of chicken recipes here.
Have your say:
Do you agree with Andrew or have another point to add? Leave your responses in the comment section below.
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