Chickens Coming Home to Roost

The news from ITV and the Guardian that chicken from 2Sisters Food is regularly date extended and chicken returned is sent out again or simply picked off the floor and repackaged whilst later all sitting happily on the shelves of Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer, Aldi and Lidl, comes as no surprise.

It only goes to prove even more that anyone who voluntarily chooses to buy chicken from a supermarket when they can afford something more expensive is foolhardy at best. Chicken is the UK’s most widely consumed meat yet antibiotic use among intensively reared chicken flocks is scandalously widespread and is more than likely to constitute a health danger to those who eat it and then subsequently rely on antibiotics in illness.

Quite why antibiotic use is permitted in animal husbandry I have never understood.  Probably just because we can.

Of course the news that the Food Standards Agency is going to rely on the big supermarkets to police themselves was rather earlier in the year – so that’s something else that is clearly working well. In fact even better, included in this ‘experiment’ are Mitchell and Butlers, owners of Toby Inns, whose establishment in Exeter had to be closed not once, but on two occasions because swathes of its customers were taken ill with norovirus.

Nothing to worry about there then.

These are more examples of the hollowed out state in action.

It puts puts the administrative burden onto every company in the land. Big companies may have enough slack in the system to do their own enforcement, though it doesn’t seem to be working well at 2Sisters, or Tesco – it seems to set one department against the another. A sort of company schizophrenia.

If you are a small business of course you have to weigh up the rules and regulations on your own. And when you also trade in alcohol, whilst there are further regulations to comply with, you can – oh joy – undertake a course on due diligence before buying from any drinks wholesaler, that might wish to supply you. Failure to comply would mean the fine would be equal to the value of any duty not properly paid together with having your stock seized. Probably terminal for the small business but almost a reasonable cost for a big company. And yet small business is where most of us are employed and they are potentially the seedcorn of the future. Still, if you feel you need to take on anyone new you could spend your remaining spare time checking that your employee has the right to work in the UK. And a National Insurance number is no proof.

This apparently is allowing business to ‘flourish’. As Grenfell Tower proves, both society and business need competent regulation enforced by a properly resourced state to create a benign environment for life – and business. Conflicting aims will lead to conflicted outlooks and outcomes that are a long way from the original objectives.

And business – who’d be in it? Much better to be a rentier or a banker. At least then there’s no chance of being prosecuted.

But even then it might be better to avoid the chicken.


  1. Peter May -

    Agreed – we have to regulate in order to level the chicken playing field as it were. The UK has already been reasonably progressive in persuading the EU on animal welfare. If we tie ourselves to America we automatically reduce our influence and probably resign ourselves – incidentally – to their food standards and diabetes rates .

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