No chlorine chickens here

I’ve spent twelve months not mentioning politics (in general) and BREXIT (in particular) but the current row about chlorine washed chickens seems to be going round and round in circles and getting absolutely nowhere. I guess it’s that time of year when they have to make a little news go a long way.

Personally, I find most mass produced chickens taste of a well-known brand of washing up liquid so I avoid them for this, and many other reasons. Chlorine is obviously a much heavier duty chemical but, in the current context and greater scheme of things, it’s probably fairly harmless. I’m surprised no one has put forward the argument that it’s good for the teeth.

But it’s not the chlorine that’s the problem – it’s the multitude of sins the chlorine covers up and the way American agriculture (if you can call it that) operates.

Thousands of chickens in a poultry factoryMany of the less savoury elements of chicken and pork production, for example, are outsourced to Central America (out of sight, out of mind) so they don’t have to think about what is really going on. We’ve all seen, or heard about, Cowspiracy and the fact that 70% of all antibiotics in the US are fed to animals is pretty scary. I thought the Europe figure of 40% was bad enough. But with the rate of total salmonella infection per head in the U.S. being 4-5 times that of Europe, neither chlorine or antibiotics seem to be working.

Liam Fox says the media is obsessed with the subject, but George Monbiot wrote eloquently in the Guardian this week about the real significance of this chicken debate, and how global trade is doing more to undermine our wellbeing than enhance it.

Free range chickens outdoorsSo we’re leaving Europe – we’re a democracy and we voted for it. But to go from the overregulation of the EU, to trading with a market that doesn’t meet our rigorous standards on animal welfare and food safety, seems like out of the frying pan, into the fire. I, for one, definitely preferred the frying pan and leaving food safety standards up to the WTO seems to me like an invitation to be burnt. Even worse is that it was so bloody predictable.

One thing you can be confident of, you’ll never buy a chlorine washed chicken in our farm shops.