Channel 4 are currently showing a series called Jimmy and the Giant Supermarket on Tuesday at 9pm which focuses on the welfare of animals used to produce cheap supermarket own brand meat.
It’s not comfortable viewing, the first episode showed footage of calves being shot just after they had been born and the second episode featured a lot of offal. Hard to watch but I think it’s good that this stuff is on tv in a fairly prime time spot and is no longer just restricted to fairly niche documentaries or Youtube videos.
The premise of the program is that supermarket brand meat products can be made in a more humane way with no more expense to the customer. Last week featured sausages. In order to make a free range sausage cost the same as a Tesco own brand sausage it would have to include heart and tongue amongst the other less than savoury ingredients. In blind taste tests this heart and tongue sausage scored above the “normal” sausage but as soon as heart and tongue were mentioned negative opinions surfaced.
I find this backlash rather strange, don’t people know what’s in a normal sausage? You can be sure it’s probably not nice, and that there’s probably a bumhole in there somewhere.
Personally, I don’t understand how someone who eats the loins of an animal (we’re talking pretty much the crotch right?) can be turned off by the thought of eating the tongue of an animal. I believe people see meat as a product and don’t understand that their much festishised bacon (for example) actually was once walking around belonging to a pig. I say walking, if it’s cheap nasty meat it probably didn’t have the room to. Bacon doesn’t just appear mysteriously out of thin air…stuff has to happen to it first and a lot of that stuff isn’t very nice. Why do people not realise this? An example of this comes from someone I work with. He was given some free range organic eggs laid by another colleagues chickens and he couldn’t eat them. They had feathers and poo attached and the added extras somehow made him realise they had come out of a chickens bottom and not from a supermarket shelf and he had to throw them away.
I believe that people do not link what is on their plate with what they take their children to visit in the park. They either don’t think about it or if they do they expect the animals to be kept in idyllic surroundings before being gently killed. The reality isn’t so.
Anyway, back to the program. Jimmy took the people who had previously said they were uncomfortable eating the free range heart and tongue sausage, even though it tasted nicer and cost the same as the supermarket own brand, to a pig farm. Here he showed them the different levels of pig farming. Free range involved piglets frolicking in outside areas with sows having room to run around. The next level up was barn pigs who were crammed into rooms with no natural light but still (allegedly) had room to snuffle in hay. Finally they were shown the methods used in intensive farming to produce cheap meat. Rows of pigs squashed into sow cages to give birth, unable to move. Not nice. (Interestingly enough, sow cages are illegal in the UK but the import and sale of meat raised this way isn’t.)
Pretty much everyone who saw these pigs changed their minds and said they would prefer to buy the free range sausage despite the heart and tongue. Some people cried.
People as a whole (vegetarians included) need to be more aware of where their food is coming from and what goes into producing it. As a vegetarian, I often get asked if I believe meat eaters should be willing and able to kill their own meat… and my answer is no. We aren’t cavemen. BUT people should be aware of what goes into producing their food and the methods involved and make a conscious decision if they are ok with eating it. If you make a fully informed decision then I respect that (just as I expect my decision not to eat meat to also be respected.)
Wise up people of the world, if you can get a “cruelty free” (I’ll put that in quotes for obvious reasons) meat product for no extra cost then it’s a total non-brainer. Don’t even question what’s in it. You’d be quite surprised by what ends up in a “normal” sausage. Don’t worry, I’m not going to talk about mechanically recovered meat here but seriously, look it up. Gross.
Sorry if this has come over a bit animal rights activist rant, It wasn’t meant to. If you’ve watched the series, let me know what you think.