Sale of £1.99 chickens ‘depressing’

£1.99 chickens went on sale at Tesco yesterday, a move that was branded ‘depressing’ by the animal welfare group, Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), especially as it follows weeks of debate about broiler chickens, including a special feature in Country Life.

Tesco cut the price of a ‘standard’ bird to £1.99 until Sunday, but insists that it has doubled its order of higher-welfare chickens.

Dr Lesley Lambert, CIWF’s director of research and education, said: ‘£1.99 doesn’t reflect the real price of producing a chicken. At the moment, farmers make only 2p per chicken, so this will push them to the limit.’

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who was recently involved in a television programme about broiler chickens, said: ‘I’m very surprised [at Tesco] because everybody is selling out of free-range chicken. To launch a £1.99 chicken is in direct contradiction to a statement [the chief executive] Sir Terry Leahy made last summer when he said he didn’t want to get into a food price war on chicken.’

Tesco spokesman Jonathan Church responded by saying: ‘We have been working hard for a while to increase the amount of higher-welfare chicken we sell and the recent debate in the media about chickens has helped raise awareness of the choice available.

‘But our investment in premium chicken should not be seen as a move away from providing more affordable options. No one should feel guilty for buying a chicken just because it is good value. The only reduction we make is in the price, not the welfare.’

Bristol University today published a study that showed how, by the age of 40 days, 27 per cent of fast-growing indoor broiler chickens could not walk properly, with 3 per cent being completely lame.

The £1.99 chickens are on sale at Tesco until Sunday, a move that was branded ‘depressing’ by the animal welfare group, Compassion in World Farming (CIWF).

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