Monday, 2 May 2016

The Cheap Chicken Challenge

I am a fan of putting my money where my mouth is, quite literally. I believe that spending money on better food makes better sense, and gives better value than shopping in the oxymoronically named 'value' section of the supermarket. I also constantly bang on about this to my family. 

Like many young adults, my sons are at the lower income end of the wage earning sector. They have young families, work hard at their jobs - and in one case this means jobs plural, for person singular. They are also time poor. Like many young families, the demands of working overtime to make ends meat, ferrying kids to activities, helping with homework mean they have little time left to think about food. So anything that looks like a shortcut to decent good value meals is seized on without much thought. 


Joanna Blythman's latest book Swallow
This blows the lid off the processed food
industry's secrets
Thanks to the work of journalists like Joannna Blythman (left) I know there is better and I want that for them. I challenge them to shop away from the supermarkets and have won the hearts and minds battle but now find myself facing the cheap chicken challenge. 

One of my sons was buying large value packs of cheap chicken breasts from a supermarket to make nutritious cheap lunches to take to work. He found the meat did not fill him and found the meat reduced significantly in size when cooked. 

Thanks to Joanna Blythman, we know why 'value' chicken isn't good value. The processes that intervene between a chicken being slaughtered and it arriving as a packaged chicken breast mean that you end up paying for water and glycerol that is injected into the meat. 
Craig at Pattinsons Family Butchers cheerfully and easily
meeting the cheap chicken challenge

So having won the argument I challenged Craig the butcher to provide better meat for the same price. In the event the cheap chicken challenge wasn't so much of a challenge. With his expert knowledge of meat, coupled with his fair pricing strategy, Craig now regularly provides either a £10 bag or £15 bag of meat that is more than adequate for my son's lunches, and is much more filling than the meat he was buying from a supermarket. This, coupled with tips like adding a tin of lentils or chickpeas to his meaty dish, means he is fuller for fewer pounds. 

So, this sounds like quite a short blog post. Challenge met, job done. There is a further point though. If the work of journalists like Joanna Blythman is to convince us to eat better, fresher food, then who are the enablers to help hard-pressed families achieve it? 

The idea of having to shop in more than one place still seems too difficult for many young families. Equally there is a generation of young adults who have little or no food knowledge yet for those in work the chance of accessing food education is slim. There are many worthy courses and workshops for those (sadly) with time on their hands, but less so for those holding down low-waged jobs. Yet the low-waged are those who are only a step away from the Foodbank queue. 

These young people are not (yet) the Masterchef aspiring, Bake-Off watching, BBC Good Food reading generation. They don't know who Joanna Blythman is. 

But I do. And, maybe, so do you (if you don't I recommend that your read her work

Our job is more than shopping smugly and enjoying our fresh food. We, the convinced, have a role in supporting people that we know who, for whatever reason, struggle to eat well. If they can't get to the shops help them by going to one shop for them and show them what better meat looks and tastes like. If they can shop well locally but don't know how to cook economically print off a recipe or cook with them. 

Grandparents: cook with your grandchildren and let them see that it is normal to cook from scratch - my grandson was amazed that bacon didn't come off a pig in slices, yet he loved helping me cure a piece of belly pork to make our own. 

Let's start a gentle food revolution. You don't need the voice and coverage of top journalists or TV chefs to share a post on Facebook or Twitter. By showing your friends and families what real food looks like you will help change hearts and minds just as effectively.