As we all prepare to sit down for our annual turkey feast this Christmas, let’s spare a thought for the British poultry sector, which has faced a bit of a bashing from an article in the Guardian today.
I am all for exposing bad working conditions and poor treatment of workers, but today’s exposé on the “dark side” of poultry processing painted a very different picture to the industry I have witnessed over the years.
I won’t deny that poultry plants must be pretty unpleasant places to work. Temperatures can range from swelteringly hot to freezing cold, the work is tiring and repetitive, there are strict targets to meet and the pay is relatively low.
But a rubbish job doesn’t amount to worker abuse, and I can’t help but feel some of the accusations in the article were blown way out of proportion.
The British poultry plants I have visited have all shared an almost obsessive approach to cleanliness and a visible concern for worker welfare. Most paid their staff above minimum wage – which is more than can be said for employers in other low-skilled sectors – and prided themselves on their low staff turnover.
Of course I haven’t visited every poultry plant in the UK, and if any of the allegations are true, the industry must work to clean up its act. But it must also defend itself robustly against misleading accusations.
Because let’s face it, most consumers have no idea what goes on inside poultry plants and unless the industry sets the record straight, people will inevitably take what the papers say as gospel.
If shoppers lose faith in British poultry, they might just start buying more imported meat – which often comes from countries where working conditions are far worse, and workers are paid far less, than in the UK.
So my message for the poultry industry this Christmas is this: Don’t be afraid to step into the light, throw open your doors and show the world you have nothing to hide. Britain has some of the highest standards in the world, and it’s time to start shouting about them.