Oliver turns up the heat on battery-farmed chickens

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The Independent Online

After tackling sub-standard school dinners, now Jamie Oliver is preparing to take on battery-farmed chickens.

As part of a Channel 4 season devoted to changing the nation's eating habits, Oliver, together with fellow television chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, will reveal to viewers the realities of industrial chicken production.

Oliver, 32, has already held meetings on the subject with Sainsbury's, the supermarket with which he has an advertising contract.

In Jamie's Fowl Dinners, a one-off special, Oliver hosts a gala dinner with chicken on the menu, in which he will "graphically demonstrate" the chicken rearing process. Guests at the dinner will include celebrities, food producers, supermarkets and ordinary people.

In Hugh's Chicken Run, a show broadcast across three nights, Fearnley-Whittingstall sets up his own intensive farm to show what happens to chickens that are sold for less than the price of a pint of beer. In the series, the chef, who made his name cooking with home-grown and locally produced ingredients, challenges supermarkets and takeaways to switch to free-range chicken, starting with Tesco in his town, Axminster. The River Cottage star was reduced to tears during filming by the appalling conditions in which chickens are reared.

Fearnley-Whittingstall said: "Until the supermarkets stop devaluing chicken by selling it at discount prices, British farmers won't be able to afford to produce to a higher welfare standard. If consumers are better informed about how intensive chickens are farmed, they may be prepared to pay more."

Speaking about Oliver's show, Andrew Mackenzie, the head of factual entertainment at Channel 4 said: "Jamie's simple message, in quite an overt way, will be, 'If you know what happens to a chicken before arriving on your plate, would you change the way you think about chicken. Would you still eat it?'

"Our standards are not as good as some in Europe. Even people who buy free-range chickens may not be aware that every time they eat cake, the eggs aren't likely to be free range, so they are essentially endorsing the battery hen."

Running for two weeks in January, Channel 4's Food Season will also include Cook-a-Long-a-Gordon, a live, hour-long show in which Gordon Ramsay invites viewers to cook with him. They will be able to download ingredient details before transmission so they can follow his instructions in real time. Ramsay's aim is to prove that everyone can prepare a quick but nourishing home-cooked meal. In Eat Yourself To Death, the anatomist Gunther von Hagens will conduct a human dissection to demonstrate the effects of a poor diet and obesity on the body. Another show, The Diet That Time Forgot takes four fast-food lovers to north Pakistan to sample one of the healthiest diets known, that of the Shimshal people.