Poultry now accounts for nearly half of all the meat bought in the UK, as British people are now eating an estimated 2.2 million chickens per day. That's a helluva lot of birds. This week as news was released about poultry farm drugs that are putting human lives at risk it is becoming harder to ignore the detrimental impact animal agriculture has on our health, the planet and animals. Here is why it is time to replace the chicken with chickpeas:
1. That drumstick could expose you to antibiotic-resistant bacteria
Chickens raised for their flesh are often packed by the thousands into massive sheds and fed large amounts of antibiotics to keep them alive in conditions that would otherwise kill them. As if that weren't enough to turn you off your lunch, figures revealed this week show that antibiotics banned on US chicken farms a decade ago (because they have been shown to spread potentially deadly food poisoning bacteria in humans) are used in increasingly large quantities on UK farms. This means consumers who contract food poisoning bugs, including salmonella and E coli – often from infected poultry meat – could find their lives at risk because they may not respond to antibiotic treatment.
2. If you're eating chicken, you could be eating poo
Research has shown that as much as 92 per cent of all chicken on sale is contaminated with faecal matter. This helps to explain why food poisoning from poultry continues to make almost a quarter of a million Britons ill every year.
3. If you think chicken is a healthy choice, think again
A medium-sized chicken now contains a pint of fat. Professors Michael Crawford and Yiqun Wang of London Metropolitan University found that chicken contains as much fat, gram for gram, as a Big Mac. They analysed chicken thigh meat from several supermarkets and found it contains more than twice as much fat as it did in 1940, a third more calories and a third less protein. What's more, animal-derived foods, even lean-looking white meats, are often associated with large amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol – artery-clogging substances that are a main cause of heart disease.
Food trends in 2016
Food trends in 2016
1/11 Celeriac root
We had a kale obsession in 2015, but 2016’s vegetable sine qua non is predicted to be the knobbly celeriac root. Celeriac milk (Tom Hunt at Poco in Bristol serves it with winter mussels and wild water celery), celeriac cooked in Galician beef fat (from Adam Rawson of Pachamama, hot new chef in the capital) and salt-baked celeriac (to be found in Matthew and Iain Pennington’s kitchens at The Ethicurean in the West Country) are just a few examples.
2/11 Middle Eastern food
The Middle Eastern Vegetarian Cookbook (£24.95, Phaidon) by grand-dame Salma Hage, author of the bestseller The Lebanese Kitchen (whose halva is pictured here), is out in April
© Liz & Max Haarala Hamilton
3/11 Non-alcoholic cocktails
Grain Store mixologist Tony Conigliaro has created Roman Redhead, a riot of red grape juice, beetroot, pale ale and verjus, and Rose Iced Tea (black tea, rose petals, anise essence, pictured here)
The discerning will be slurping Hepple gin – from chef Valentine Warner and cocktail guru Nick Strangeway – which is punctuated with bog-myrtle nuances
5/11 Argyll and Bute
Restaurant followers are getting in a froth about Pam Brunton in Scotland, who opened the Inver restaurant in Argyll and Bute to acclaim last year
6/11 Andy Oliver’s Som Saa
One of the most eagerly awaited restaurants of 2016 will be the permanent incarnation of Andy Oliver’s remarkable pop-up Som Saa opening very soon in east London. Oliver, who worked at Thai god David Thompson’s Nahm in Bangkok, raised a whopping £700,000 through crowdfunding, and is renowned for his piquant Thai flavours and obsessive attention to detail, including in his home ferments and DIY coconut cream
© Adam Weatherley
Another ruminant in vogue is venison, with Sainsbury’s doubling its line for 2016. It provides a protein-packed punch, with B vitamins and iron, and it’s low in fat. Its entry into the mainstream is in part thanks to the Scottish restaurant Mac and Wild, just opened in London, whose Celtic head chef Andy Waugh (who also runs the Wild Game Co) has been touting it as street food for years (his venison burger pictured here)
From Brett Graham’s The Ledbury to Angela Hartnett’s kitchens at Lime Wood Hotel in the New Forest, Cabrito is the go-to goat supplier among the chef cognoscenti (roasted loin of kid pictured here) – but this year, domestic cooks can get in on the action, as Sushila Moles and James Whetlor of Cabrito offer their meat through Ocado
Mike Lusmore / mikelusmore.com
Coffee sage George Crawford is launching the much-anticipated Cupsmith with his partner, Emma. Crawford believes that 2016 is the year purist coffee will finally meet the masses; Cupsmith’s mission will be to make craft coffee as popular as craft beer on the high street. The company roasts Arabica beans in small batches, improving its quality – but sells it online, at cupsmith.com, in an approachable way: expect cheerful packaging and names such as Afternoon Reviver Coffee (designed for drinking with milk – no matter how uncouth, most of us want milk) and Glorious Espresso
10/11 120-day-old steak
Hanging meat for extremely long lengths of time has become an art. In Cumbria, Lake Road Kitchen’s James Cross is plating up 120-day-old steak (pictured here). The beef is from influential “ager” Dan Austin of Lake District Farmers, who is currently investigating the individual bacterial cultures that go into this maturing process
11/11 Lotus root
Diners can expect root-to-stem dining - cue the full lotus deployed by the Michelin-starred Indian Benares in its kamal kakdi aur paneer korma
4. Chickens are individuals, not nuggets
Chickens are not just body parts to pick out of buckets but individuals with the capacity to feel pain. Make no bones about it: chickens are gentle, intelligent animals with distinct personalities. They can recognise others by their facial features – as a PETA supporter who lives with a rescued chicken can attest. His sweet Penelope sits by the upstairs window in the afternoon. As soon as she spots him getting off the bus, she bounds down the stairs to greet him when he opens the door.
5. It supports cruelty to animals
Every day, thousands of these gentle birds are crammed into sheds where disease, ammonia burns from the filthy air, smothering and heart attacks are common. They exist in these miserable conditions, forced to endure the stress and trauma of living amongst injured and dead birds, until the day they are loaded onto trucks bound for the abattoir, where they are slaughtered in painful ways.
6. Because labels are meaningless
Red Tractor, RSPCA Assured, Soil Association – these schemes are almost meaningless as far as animal welfare goes. Even on farms bearing these labels, animals are often mutilated without painkillers, artificially inseminated, kept in crowded conditions, robbed of their beloved offspring and shipped in all weather extremes to watch other animals be killed before sharing the same fate.
7. Eating animals wreaks havoc on the environment
Consider this one foul fact: raising millions of chickens on factory farms each year produces enormous amounts of excrement. And because chickens are often fed massive amounts of antibiotics, these chemicals are also found in high concentrations in their faeces, which mean that faecal pollution from chicken farms is especially disastrous for the environment. In the United States, for example, scientists discovered that male fish are growing ovaries, and they suspect that this freakish deformity is the result of factory-farm runoff from drug-laden chicken faeces.