|Whole chicken type||£/kg|
|"Taste the difference" free range||3.99|
|"Best of British"||2.09|
|* Subsequently reduced to £2.60/kg|
Given that the cheaper classifications are intensively farmed and crap-fed, the price premium for this barn-reared corn-fed chicken seemed very reasonable. What really caught my eye though were the prices of the free range (are they really free range in the true sense of the phrase?) offering and, shock horror, the organic birds. Call me a cynic, but it seems to me that you apply a celebrity-promoted phrase or the word "organic" to a food product and sell it for twice the price.
So, the question was - what exactly was the "Freedom Food" chicken that I had just eaten? The answer might surprise you. Freedom Food is not necessarily free range, nor organically reared and, as with my West Country Devonshire Red corn fed bird, you may not even know whether or not these labels apply. What it does guarantee is that the welfare of the animal concerned was assured independently by people you can trust - the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals. Freedom Food is a non-profit making charity set up by the RSPCA in 1994 to improve farm animal welfare. Completely independent from the food industry, Freedom Food claims to apply higher animal welfare standards than any other UK farm assurance scheme. To qualify under the scheme, all farm animals must be reared according to strict RSPCA standards covering each stage of the animal's life, including handling and transportation as well as rearing. The scheme includes annual inspection of all premises by RSPCA Inspectors and regular traceability checks to ensure that every link in the chain is fully certified.
It seems to me that this is a very sensible way to market food from animals that have been raised ethically. For those with the time and skill to make their way through the maze of other classifications, so much the better. I'm not for a moment arguing against buying free range or organic products. But for those whose primary concern is animal welfare and who are buying free range or organic in the hope that this will offer some guarantees, the Freedom Food scheme may be just what you are really looking for.