A Viva! investigation into Grampian Country Foods Chicken Producers
Viva! has investigated the UK’s leading privately owned agrifood business - Grampian Country Foods which produces nearly a third of all UK-reared chickens.
A Recipe for Disaster - Viva! footage of Grampian chickens. Nutley, East Sussex.
Viva! filmed at a Grampian Country Chickens broiler unit in Nutley, East Sussex in February 2002. The windowless shed was crammed with thousands of broiler (‘meat’) chickens kept under artificial light. The noise and the smell of ammonia were overpowering. The flooring had accumulated excreta that would not be changed for the chicken’s lifetime. Outside the shed there were dead and rotting chickens piled up. Inside the shed there were dead and dying chickens amongst living ones. Investigators witnessed ammonia burns and sores on many of the chickens’ bodies and some chickens’ undersides were nearly bald and were caked in faeces. Investigators filmed chickens trampling on and pecking at dead and rotting birds. Many birds were unable to stand to move to water and feed points (this often results in starvation and death). Viva! investigators filmed birds with such severely deformed legs that they were unable to stand or walk and their feet were splayed out to the sides of their bodies. One bird was desperately gasping for air and was clearly distressed and dying.
Grampian Country Chickens - the Company
Grampian Country Food Group was established in 1980. The group now operates 43 principle locations, employing around 20,000 people throughout the UK, Thailand and Germany, with an annual turnover of £1.8 billion (1). By 2008, Grampian supplied over 7,000 tonnes of chicken a week to British supermarkets, including Asda, Co-op, Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury's, Somerfield - as well as restaurants, butchers and markets (2). As well as chicken, the company produces: beef, lamb and pork and a variety of pork convenience foods.
Grampain process (slaughter and package) nearly 3 million chickens per week. The company produces a huge range of chicken products. These include the ‘super roaster’, fillets, thighs, drumsticks; cooked whole birds and portions and numerous convenience products. The chicken division has sites throughout the country, but has recently been downsized in light of overseas competition, a lack of consumer confidence and the growing number of vegetarians in the UK (An annual drop in slaughter (2006 figures) showed that 20 million fewer chickens were killed in Britain. Even taking into account all imports, exports and domestic production, poultry meat consumption in the UK fell by 32,000 tons (4)). The company closed several site (including their plant in Banff, Scotland), and between 2005-2006 disclosed a loss of £40 million (5).
The company state, “High welfare standards for the chickens are an important contributory factor in their health and overall good condition (3).” When our undercover investigators filmed inside one of Grampians units, welfare standards were clearly wholly inadequate. The chickens were kept in appalling conditions and there were dead and dying birds among the living inside the shed. Many of the birds were in a pitiful state of health and poor condition.
1. www.gcfg.com [website no longer live]
2. http://www.gcfg.com/products.html [website no longer live]
4. http://statistics.defra.gov.uk/esg/publications/auk/2006/excel.asp and http://statistics.defra.gov.uk/esg/datasets/slaughm.xls