The £1.99 Chicken – Hugh and Jamie must have made an impact

Published on 6 February 2008 in , ,

It’s barely a month since Channel 4’s Big Food Fight season. A season with hugely promoted programmes like Hugh’s Chicken Run and Jamie’s Fowl Dinners where viewers were told in quite graphical detail, the life of the average broiler and battery chicken. The life that provides us with the insanely cheap chicken that millions of people buy every month. And which many are now re-considering.

Perfect time then for Tesco to start selling their £1.99 whole chicken then.

Naturally it’s a move that has provoked anger, both from welfare groups and farmers. And rightly so.

But I can’t help but wonder if it’s a sign of desperation. A sign that the supermarkets know they’ve got a huge amount of broiler chicken coming towards their stores, for which sales have started to fall.

I wonder that having had my regular look at the poultry section of my local Sainsburys this evening. Pretty much since Hugh’s Chicken Run ended, I’ve been making casual glances at the situation in my local supermarket.

And on every visit, the amount of organic and free range chicken on the shelves has been… well lets say it’s been notable by its absence.

So much so that this evening I spotted that Sainsburys, Merton Abbey now have signs up apologising for the lack of non-broiler chicken – they simply don’t have the supplies to keep up with demand.

I’d like to say that in contrast, there’s huge amounts of shelf space that is full to bursting of el-cheapo broiler, nastily-treated chicken. But here’s the interesting thing. It’s not. The shelf space given to the cheap broiler chicken seems the same – but on every visit I make, there’s barely anything on there. The whole chickens are spread out so thinly with gaps on the shelves. Visibly the shelves are barely stacked at one chicken deep when they’d easily fit three.

In contrast, there’s shelves deep of standard chicken breasts. They’re stacked up high and wide in their normal shelf spots, as well as in at least two “aisle-end” promotional areas. Spots normally reserved for special offers…

Whatever your view on chicken welfare, there’s obviously something going on in the market place. Demand for free range and organic chicken is clearly up. And demand for cheap chicken is bound to have gone down. But moving chicken production in this country to higher standards can’t be done quick because it’s going to require huge changes to be made.

And in the short term, the supermarkets will have committed themselves to selling a certain amount of broiler chicken. Can it really be much of a surprise that some of them are resorting to slashing prices in order to get rid of it?


  • William T says:

    Prediction: In 6 months time (or indeed less) people’s shopping habits will be back to exactly how they were before..

  • Andrew Bowden says:

    I’m sure some people will slip back into old habbits in time, but there was a similar situation a few years back when there was a big move from battery eggs to free range – now free range eggs make up the majority of eggs sold in supermarkets.
    Only time will tell what happens this time!

  • terry says:

    try a free range chicken,the taste is fantastic. it had a good life,forget the cost . think about its lifestyle.