Former Olympic hurdler Sally Gunnell has been signed up as the face of British chicken in 2007.

Her participation marks the start of a £1m campaign from British Chicken Marketing, which is looking to capitalise on the meat's health credentials. It is being positioned as 'the perfect choice for healthy family life' after BCM identified middle-aged mums as the key market

It follows a year of negative headlines about chicken, ranging from bird flu to allegations of rising fat content.

Gunnell will front seasonal campaigns in the spring, summer and autumn, including the Roast a Great British Chicken weekend on 3-4 March. In the summer she will present prizes to children who won an on-pack competition for trips to sports academies. In autumn she will appear on chicken recipes placed in national press.

To reinforce the health message, BCM has also signed a three-year deal with the British Heart Foundation (BHF). It means the charity's logo will appear on some packs of chicken.

"BHF is synonymous with health," said BCM chairman Charles Bourns. "Its logo gives us something that will connect people with our chicken and give it some real health meaning."

But there is a catch, as the logo can only be used on packs in stores that have signed up to the FSA's traffic light nutrition labelling scheme. That counts out Tesco, Morrisons and Somerfield, as well as Waitrose, which does not permit logos on-pack. And there is no guarantee retailers will support the logo

"It's basically down to them whether they extend the space on the label or not. So far only the Co-op has committed to use it, but I hope others might see it as a way of differentiating themselves," Bourns added.

The main competitors to chicken are beef, pork and lamb, Bourns added. The healthy message is designed to differentiate those meats from chicken. "The BHF won't touch red meat," Bourns said.