Did you see Jimmy and the Giant Supermarket on Tuesday night?
Jimmy Doherty is a free-range pig farmer and television presenter. His latest Channel 4 series shows his attempts to come up with innovative ideas to produce equally cheap but higher welfare alternatives to supermarket’s bestselling meat products.
Compassion has been working with the production team for a number of months, looking for ways to include higher welfare meat whilst keeping the price low.
One way we came up with was to use less, but better (higher welfare) meat as an ingredient, supplemented with healthy non-meat alternatives to keep the cost low. It’s an approach that has benefits beyond animal welfare; better quality food for the consumer too.
The big issue Jimmy was seeking to tackle was that of male dairy calves. These calves have long been disposed of at birth because, being male they won’t produce milk, and being of a dairy breed, they’ve often not been considered suitable for beef production. They’ve traditionally been exported live to the Continent or shot at birth.
For the past six years, we’ve been working with the dairy, beef and food industries to give these calves a better life. We’ve succeeded with three quarters of all dairy calves. These animals are now being reared in Britain in higher welfare systems for beef or for veal. Sadly there are still up to 110,000 bull calves per year being shot or exported. On Tuesday night’s episode, Jimmy challenged Tesco by attempting to produce a high welfare meatball for a budget cost. He did this using British rosé veal.
Whilst Tesco didn’t buy the meat-ball concept, he was successful in raising awareness of the plight of British dairy bull calves. He has managed to get Tesco to agree to consider selling British rosé veal in their stores in the future, instead of veal from the Continent where the welfare requirements for calves are lower. In addition, he managed to bring together farming communities and locals. I congratulate him on that.