I’m writing again on a chicken theme largely in response to the Guardian investigation into the production practices at the 2 Sisters Food group (2SFG) in the midlands. Apart from its findings I am genuinely interested into how poultry is processed on such a large scale.
I have found myself reading some of the articles and wondering why the journalist writing it is so horrified about the slaughter and processing of chickens and how physical the work is. I’m not quite sure what they expected, and I felt that their disgust for the process was shaming for the people who work on the chicken production line. We do that work on a small scale on our own farm. Slaughtering (humanely) and gutting a chicken so it is safe to eat is a dirty, smelly, bloody job. It’s physical, repetitive work, like most work within food production and catering, and you have to do it quickly and efficiently or you become overwhelmed by it. No one in our business does it for longer than one morning a week.
But it is meaningful work and that work, albeit hard, has a dignity. That dignity comes from the job completed, orders fulfilled, a customer who likes the product and says it tastes nice, a field of chickens outside on a summers evening doing what they are supposed to do, members of staff employed in a proper legal structure, and importantly, treated with respect for the work done. If you devalue the end product so that its cheapness is the only valuable outcome you remove that dignity from the process and that is shaming for the people involved.
Once something is cheap, or worse still perceived as cheap, we value it much less and it becomes easy to abuse or even discard that product, and the processes, that have gone into making it. I am not under any illusions, very few people choose to do this work, and so then valuing their effort becomes even more important. Without it we would not have anything like the food choices on offer to us on a daily basis.