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Come on in, the future is ethical

12 June 2009
Come on in, the future is ethical

Food journalist Richard Johnson, a judge of the food category at this year's RSPCA Good Business Awards, says ethical food has never been so important

I am a TV presenter and a grown man but when I filmed a bullock being slaughtered for BBC2's Full on Food, I cried. It felt like a Biblical experience - something was dying so that I might live - and it changed the way I thought about meat. I decided that if I was going to eat meat again, I would need to know how the animal had lived, and how it had died. The programme director tutted. He looked at me and said: "For God's sake, it's only a bloody cow."

His reaction was typical. I got a lot of the same when I presented BBC3's Kill It, Cook It, Eat It, which looked at slaughter processes. With speeds of up to 8,000 chickens an hour, slaughter does not always have time to be humane. But when I tried to explain what was going on at factory "farms", friends would tell me: "Stop! I may never eat chicken again." Which was the point. Dummy.

Since Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver got involved, things have started to change. According to RSPCA research (of 2,000 consumers), 56% of people regularly buy higher-welfare eggs and 39% are buying higher-welfare chicken, for example organic, free-range or Freedom Food.

Restaurants and pubs are places where pleasure likes to dwell. I have never been able to square that with factory-farmed meat or foie gras. And I'm not alone. There's money to be made in menu transparency. But most staff haven't got the faintest idea of the provenance of what they're serving, let alone knowing what the soup of the day is. Trust me - that will change, in the future.

There was a strong representation in the restaurant category of the RSPCA Good Business Awards last year with entrants as diverse as a chip shop to an old-fashioned West Country boozer. Even a huge multinational such as McDonald's, which came away with an RSPCA award for its improvements in humane poultry slaughter.

So why not give it a try? Come and join the good guys.

For more details on the awards, which are open for entries until 30 June, go to www.rspcagoodbusinessawards.com.

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