The Independant (UK) ( had an assortment of free range egg articles yesterday, including one from Joanna Lumley. Doug says that Joanna Lumley is famous; in a Coronation Street kind of way, I guess.
Lumley writes that: Sixty-two per cent of hens in the UK still endure life sentences of frustration and deprivation in the battery cage. How can we let such cruelty continue? For the past two years, Compassion in World Farming has been engaging with the corporate world, persuading big players to abandon battery eggs and pledge to use eggs from more humane systems – at least from barn-kept hens, though free-range is best.
Celebs getting involved with poultry standards isn’t a new issue in the UK: back in January, Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall took part in documentaries discussing poultry-raising standards and urging the public to switch to consumption of a more humane product. Soon after the documentaries aired, Joanna Blythman (Jan 13, 2008) wrote that she didn’t see the latest celebrity chef campaign yielding any better results [than past efforts]:
The current round of public breast-beating on factory-farmed poultry provokes a sense of déja vu. If Britain really was concerned enough to support more progressive farming methods with its purse, then we would have seen an improvement in animal welfare by now.
But Blythman was apparently wrong. In February it was reported that sales of factory-farmed chickens slumped post-documentary campaign to raise awareness implore consumers to pay more to improve the animals’ welfare. According to the Independent (Feb 28, 2008):
Sales of free-range poultry shot up by 35 per cent last month compared with January 2007, while sales of standard indoor birds fell by 7 per cent, according to a survey of 25,000 shoppers by the market research company TNS.
Celeb endorsements of food issues isn’t strictly a British tactic either. Pam Anderson was famously linked to PETA animal welfare protests at KFC outlets a few years ago and maybe the threat of these protests resulted in Burger King’s animal welfare systems? In a Burger King press release PETA Vice President, Bruce Friedrich was quoted as saying “The BURGER KING brand’s influence has moved the entire animal industry. The availability of cage free products is growing, a credit to BKC’s leadership on the issue.” California, hot bed of US celebrity action will be voting on animal welfare legislation, "The Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act" which would mandate roomier housing for pregnant sows, veal calves and laying hens.
The message to the food industry is that celebs (no matter how minor, or how British) can make a stir (whether around animal welfare, local diets, food safety, etc.) and really affect purchasing habits. So be prepared and find a way to work alongside them on the issues; you can’t ignore them.