Channel Four’s new food season has really been pushing for us all to eat free range chickens. A couple of weeks ago, on live TV, Jamie Oliver showed us what’s really involved in raising battery chickens and the horrible conditions that they are forced to live in. But despite this, I was really surprised to see that some people were still adamant that they would keep eating the battery chickens because any other, more ethically raised chickens, were just too expensive.
I wasn’t sure how much more you really do have to pay to eat chickens raised in RSPCA approved conditions or as free range birds, so I checked it out on the websites of three major supermarkets; Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose. I was surprised to find that out of all the chickens sold by the three supermarkets, the cheapest chicken per kilo was Waitrose’s large Select Farm whole chicken. Their select chickens are raised in huts, but they have natural light, different levels for the chickens to play on and hanging bits of corn to keep the animals stimulated, all of which obviously costs more than the dismal conditions in which battery chickens are raised. But, despite the extra cost, a large select farm chicken at Waitrose works out at £2.09 per kilo compared to Tesco’s battery chickens that are £2.18 per kilo at their cheapest, and Sainsbury’s at £2.19 per kilo.
Even Tesco’s renowned 2 chickens for £5.50 deals, that some claim are irresistible because they are so cheap, work out at fractionally less than this; £1.96 per Kilo. This means that for just 13p more per kilo at Waitrose you are getting a chicken that has had a much happier life and as a result is a better quality, tastier meat.
So, all right, Waitrose’s ‘happy chickens’ are outpricing Tesco, but it is generally more expensive to buy free range. But what I’ve decided is that I’m just going to cut down on my meat-eating. It’s not that great for us anyway, they say, and I like a lot of vegetarian foods.
So I think that by halving the quantity but doubling the quality I’ll end up spending the same amount. I always forget that we don’t need to eat lots of meat, but just today I needed to clear out the fridge and make lunch so I chucked all of the vegetables I had in my fridge into a soup that was a great lunch for all the moneymagpie team even though it was vegetarian. I put some Quinoa in to add in protein – it’s cheap, easy and adds substance to soups
If you can’t live without your meat, a great way to keep it in your diet more cheaply is to make dishes where you can mix meat with vegetables to make it go further. Try cooking a big stir-fry and only using one chicken breast per two or three people and then mixing it up with more vegetables to make it go further.
Click here to get more info from Channel Four’s Big Food Fight page, where you can get all the facts from Jamie’s Fowl Dinners and Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall’s Chicken Run series (the one where he cries). And for more ideas on how to save money on food and eat ethically take a look at our eating and drinking ethically article.