The chicken industry is to hit back at criticisms of its production methods with a high profile advertising campaign.
Farmers and processors this year will buy advertising space in major magazines in a bid to explode what it says are “myths” about how broilers are reared.
The campaign is to be co-ordinated by industry promotional group British Chicken Marketing, the British Poultry Council and the NFU.
They hope to secure the support of a celebrity vet who will tour chicken sheds with farmers, report positive messages about
production methods and address fears about biosecurity in the light of avian flu.
It is hoped that these could be presented in the form of editorial features in women’s and food magazines, although industry bosses are prepared to fund advertorials.
Charles Bourns, chairman of both British Chicken Marketing and the NFU’s poultry committee, said cash would be needed from farmers, processors and allied industries such as feed suppliers. He said he also hoped for retailer support.
He added: “If you want to build a brand, in this case British chicken, then you have to overcome objections to that brand. We hope to overcome objections based on myths about overcrowding and bird health, and the use of growth promoters and antibiotics.”
Farmers and processors are weary of repeated attacks on production methods in the media. Last autumn, two high profile TV documentaries attacked farming methods, both of which generated high levels of coverage in newspapers.
Sales of chicken have not been seriously dented, although the avian flu scare last autumn did have some impact.
But chicken bosses fear that if the intensity of the negative reporting continues, sales will start to decline as consumers switch to alternative proteins.
Richard Clarke