The perils of offal – Good News and Bad

23 Feb

For my birthday, my boyfriend Daz got me a book called the Fifth Quarter (buy it here) which is a recipe book dedicated to offal! This is excellent as I don’t have any of the offal cookbooks that are floating around. There are some awesome recipes for lung soup, cockscomb rice pudding and jacket potatoes with a kidney in the middle. The best thing about it is that it is so inspiring Anissa Helou travelled around the world, basically collecting offal recipes, so there’s eastern european recipes, caribbean ones, modern american ones (not Maccy D’s I hasten to add) and loads more. At the beginning it also has a compedium of offally bits – which is found online at the Guardian here. I remember reading it and the cogs beginning to turn …

The Good News that I am delivering (not biblical) is that I am allowed CHICKEN WINGS! This is most important for my relationship with D Dizzle because we do like our monthly fried-chicken-and-cinema dates. In fact, the first thing I said on the evening of the 1st of January this year was “Oh no, we won’t be able to have Chicken Dates, what HAVE I done?”

However, Anissa lists wings as offal (though she does class them as “The Acceptable Face”). Therefore chicken dates were reconvened. We went to one of our usual chicken haunts where the chicken is juicy and savoury and delicious. I ordered some “hot wings”.By now you’ll be wondering what the Bad is – see below:

There was nothing “hot” about these wings. They were in fact cold, dry and a bit nasty. They were not plump and delicous, nor were they whole wings, more dessicated chicken forearms crusted with dubiosity. I did not do any impressed faces. What I felt like inside was this:

However, like the good offaltarian I am, I sucked it up. I said to myself, this is my current life choice, there are important ethical reasons why I’m doing this, get over it. Then I scavenged the tiny scraps of Daz’s still not very good leftovers. I’ll have to learn to Southern Fry at home.

In retrospect I became pretty concerned about maybe I shouldn’t be eating the cheap chicken at all for all the welfare reasons and to be honest I don’t fancy chicken that is kept like this:

So I checked with the KFC website. They state that:

All our chicken on the bone is bought from UK farms, and meets Red Tractor Standards.

We are proud to be part of Red Tractor- it’s a guarantee that food meets high standards of food safety, environmental protection, local porduction and animal welfare.

The Union Flag also guarantees that the product is fully traceable back to British farms.

That sounds quite good, but what is a Red Tractor Standard? I remember that phrase being bandied around about ten years ago as being a GOOD and INNOVATIVE thing. These are the reasons they justify themselves. It appears to me to be about food hygiene levels, as well as animal welfare and responsible farming. They say they have rigorous standards for “high animal welfare”. However recently there has been some controversy from an article in the Times that accused a Red Tractor farm of cruelty to pigs: “Pigs are beaten to death on ‘ethical’ farm”. This is their response. Basically the farm was part of the scheme, but they’ve now removed it.

Personally I would never try and beat a pig to death. They are pretty clever and would probably wrestle whatever blunt instrument you had with you off your hands and bludgeon you. Whilst using a trotter to flick a V at you. F*ck you for not believing Orwell!

The point I’m trying to make is that sometimes even the standards that are good have gaps in them where unethical producers can slip through. This happens within all large organisations. What is a little offaltarian like me to do? Going back to the chicken question, it is to make as informed decisions as I can. One thing I can say is that at least the Colonel attempts some transparency; the Chicken Cottage website doesn’t even mention animal welfare … I wonder how KFC hot wings are?

2 Responses to “The perils of offal – Good News and Bad”

  1. Mother Eagle February 24, 2012 at 9:16 am #

    I always think, I don’t want to convert anyone to anything – i just want people to get informed and make conscious choices. Bravo, love your work.

  2. Miss J February 24, 2012 at 9:24 am #

    Rock Salt has an excellent recipe for salt and pepper chicken wings on her website which I have used with great success. Flour, salt, pepper, herbs and spices and you’re pretty close, if not even better than, that ‘southern fried’ flavour! x

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