Monday, January 7, 2008

Monday Morning Java: Starting the Week Off With A Jolt

Friend or Fowl? Celebrity chef bites the hand that feeds him over strong beliefs on factory poultry farming issue debate

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, who stars in TV ads for British supermarket giant Sainsbury's, this morning slammed his employer and Britain's other "big four" supermarket chains for not showing up on his TV program to debate factory poultry farming.

Oliver, who gets paid 1.2 million pounds a year for staring in the Sainsbury's TV ads, recently invited representatives from Sainsbury's, Tesco, Morrisons and Asda (the supermarket "big four") to appear on his TV documentary, "Jamie's Fowl Dinners."

As part of the documentary on factory fowl and egg farming, Oliver discovered that supermarkets pay farmers as little as three pence for a chicken, an amount Oliver says is outrageously low. He invited representatives of the four big supermarket chains to appear on the program and discuss and debate the issue.

None of the four, including his employer Sainsbury's, sent representatives to debate the issue with Oliver on the program. This has outraged Oliver, who is not only a famous chef in Britain, but has an international following among food lovers as well.

Chef Oliver told the London Daily Mail newspaper this morning that "they (the supermarket chains) all refused to take part in the program. "I am really upset," Oliver told the Daily Mail. "The question is, why didn't they come. What is there to hide?"

The celebrity chef particularly singled-out Sainsbury's for his anger. "It is shocking that the people (Sainsbury's) I work for didn't turn up," Oliver told the Daily Mirror. "I just don't know why (they didn't)."
Chef Jamie Oliver cries "fowl" and says "big four" British supermarket chains are "chicken" to debate him over factory poultry farming issue.

A Sainsbury's spokesperson said they provided a senior company executive to be interviewed by Oliver on the program. Oliver interviewed the executive for the show. The spokesperson defended their actions, saying they didn't feel the need to debate the issue since the senior manager was provided and interviewed by Oliver.

Tesco, Asda and Morrison's spokespeople didn't offer any direct reasons as to why they declined to participate in a discussion and debate with Oliver on the factory farming and related poultry issues.

However, all three grocer's said they are very concerned about and working on the factory farming poultry issue, and have each worked to create and sell "cruelty free" raised birds and eggs respectively. Each chain offers "cage-free" eggs for sale in the stores, in addition to those raised using conventional methods. They also offer "free-range" birds for sale, along with organic chickens, in addition to birds raised in the manner characterized by Oliver.

It will be interesting to see if (1) Sainsbury's pulls its TV ads, which are currently running frequently in Britain, featuring Oliver, and (2) If either Oliver resigns his commercial arrangement with Sainsbury's, or the supermarket chain fires him.

Of course, both parties could agree to disagree on the debate attendance issue, and work together to better the poultry farm to retail supply chain in all ways. Stay tuned.

Note: you can watch a video of Oliver offering his opinions of the "big four" British supermarket companies, and their decision not to participate in his discussion and debate on the factory poultry farming issue here. We must say, watching the video this morning over coffee did give us an extra Monday morning jolt.

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