Monday, 12 February 2007

Not 'bootiful' at all.

Hopefully the man who gave the nation the Turkey Twister now faces financial ruin: the only silver-lining in the bird-flu scare in Norfolk might be Bernard Matthew's downfall.

I have a special but not entirely irrational dislike for anyone who makes their fortune in the food industry. The profits are obscene, the conditions for animals and workers alike appalling, and the crappiest products are marketed to the poorest and most vulnerable. And generally that seems to make a very successful business model.

The same of course could be said of many industries, but the food industry in particular uses a rural connection to suggest that there is something 'natural' or 'traditional' about its products, and that in feeding people it fulfills some time-honoured function in the tradition of the yeomen of 'merrie england'. Which is why Bernard Matthews promotes a home-spun image of himself in his advertising campaigns - tucking into his own products and proclaiming them 'bootiful' in a quaint Norfolk accent.

Except of course, and we have Jamie Oliver to thank for this, we now know that processed poultry is not 'bootiful'. It's shit. (Amongst all the other things that tend to get mixed up in mechanically reclaimed meat). The Turkey Twister may have been withdrawn as a result, but similarly processed products still form a large part of many kid's diets. And perhaps it is no surprise that the poorer you are the more likely you are to end up eating this crap.

I am not going to join in the hysteria about bird flu (yet) - there seems to be a lot of mis-information about that reminds me of the AIDS/HIV scares of the 'eighties. And I am not going to jump on the animal rights bandwagon - as a humanist I am not sure from the point of view of moral philosophy that there is such a thing as animal rights, only human duties of care.

But I am pretty clear that every time we have one of these scares it highlights quite how little big business cares for the consequences of its actions.


Anonymous said...

What sort of a world is it when this happens? (from The Guardian):

Turkey eggs are regularly sent from the firm's operation in Britain to its farms in Hungary. Birds reared there are returned "semi-processed" to the Suffolk plant, where the breasts are extracted. Much of the rest of the meat goes back to Hungary to be made into turkey sausage.

Yuk - and the media are playing right into these manufacturers' and big pharmaceutical companies' hands by branding people worried about the use and abuse of animals as `animal extremists'.

St.Helens NUT said...

I used to work as a salesman visiting food plants and abbatoirs. It stopped me eating anything involving chicken 'portions' and anything like a pie or a pasty. Eating our became a problem. I've got over it now, but I don't know why. You wouldn't believe the filth in which these food products are made and packaged. Or the level of alienation on the faces of the workers who have to wrk in those places.

If bird flu really takes off in this country, no doubt the poultry industry bosses will all get compensated; and the poultry factory workers will get sacked, just like waht happened with foot and mouth. If you own a business you can get compensated. If all you have is a livliehood - get lost!