This post is about both live chickens and chicken to eat. I don’t want to spoil anyone’s lunch, so thought it best to mention in case this could cause upset.
This weekend we will be serving only free range eggs and chicken. It’s a complicated decision, based mostly on little pieces of paper usually exchanged for goods and services, but we hope that we have made the right choice.
Ever since my family started keeping chickens 10 years ago I have been smitten with these dozy birds, who live a complicated and very social life and will, occasionally, produce an egg. I have always regarded them as pets rather than farm animals, and one doesn’t ask a dog to make breakfast, so the occasional egg is reward enough. I’m not entirely sure my parents agree with this, as over the years they have had to give up large chunks of garden to these industrious foragers, but our little flock have also provided an enormous amount of lemon curd.
Suffice to say that by the time I had taught Phoebe to perch on my arm and then go hawking after raisins there was a very good case, in my eyes, against battery chicken. This has largely remained my opinion ever since. It resulted in us eating a lot less chicken, mostly because we can only afford the occasional whole free range bird, and made us want to run the business in the same way.
We went to the wholesaler yesterday to get the chicken for this weekend and asked about free range. They gave us a look as if I had asked them about honey glazed babies or whether they stocked fresh kittens. In the catering industry, you see, free range is simply not a sensible financial choice. The general feeling is that you wouldn’t want to pay more for something that is, essentially, exactly the same product but with a slightly clearer conscience. In my opinion it depends on how you view chicken, as free range is reared more slowly, so usually larger. The meat is not pumped full of water afterwards, and therefore doesn’t shrink during cooking. Due to the additional exercise and more varied diet you will also end up with far more flavoursome food, quite apart from the clearer conscience. That is what we were looking for, so we pottered over to Tesco and bought it there instead, having found some that just about means we can still make our money back if we sell most of it.
I appreciate that vegetarians will still be at odds with us over the chicken business; that switching from battery to free range makes little difference to vegans, and that for many folks out there chicken represents a nice cheap Sunday lunch and there is no cost-effective way to avoid that. So my line on this is that we are not being pompous, not preaching and pretending to be more food-holy than thou. We are simply trying to do our bit, however small, so that Phoebe’s descendants might one day get a chance to see the sun and taste raisins, and pepper seeds, and worms.
This is a subject close to my heart, but I appreciate it is fairly controversial. If you would like to take up the discussion then please leave a comment, it would be great to hear from you.
Other than that I expect this is the last post I will have time for before the Leamington Food Festival this weekend, so I hope to see you there! Give us a nudge on twitter @jabberwockyfood with the hashtag #leamfoodfest to let us know what you think, as we will hopefully be tweeting throughout. Also if you don’t have the faintest idea what any of that last sentence meant, please rest assured that it will have no effect what so ever on the remainder of you day.
We could also use some sunshine, if anyone has any.