The UK poultry industry should “cuddle” celebrity chefs and work harder to engage directly with the public, according to the commercial director of Lloyd Maunder.

Speaking at this week’s Egg and Poultry Industry Conference, Andrew Maunder said producers should embrace TV personalities rather than fight them. “It’s better to be part of the debate than have judgment passed in our absence,” he insisted.

Producers also needed to do more to get the message across that chicken was an affordable, well-produced commodity that could feed the whole family, Maunder added.

The industry could learn from the coffee, pizza and even MP3 sectors, Maunder claimed. “Coffee has been made cool with its ethical sustainability and fair trade messages,” he said. “Now a cup of coffee at Starbucks costs more than a whole [supermarket] chicken.”

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, addressing the conference via a pre-recorded video, urged the industry to avoid making chicken a “bland commodity” and market it instead as “the best-tasting bird produced to the highest standards”.

Sainsbury's fresh food director Simon Twigger also extolled chicken’s virtues. “Supermarkets believe today’s poultry consumers want retailers to help them save money, provide ideas to help them feed the family, buy products to match their values and save time,” he said.

This year, Sainsbury's customers were buying more Basics chicken, larger pack sizes and greater volumes of dark meat than previously, with duck also selling well, said Twigger.