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Why are we eating less chicken?

New figures have revealed that supermarket chicken sales are dwindling. What’s behind chicken’s reduced stock – and does it matter?

Chicken sales are down…

If new figures are to be believed, we are eating less chicken. According to Kantar Worldpanel, supermarket purchases of chicken in the UK have fallen 7% by volume and 4% by sales since this time last year. Given that chicken is such a mealtime staple, what’s causing this trend?

What’s causing chicken sales to slump?

As you might imagine, falling chicken sales is a topic many experts have been keen to address. The consensus appears to be that the public have been influenced by 2014’s media coverage regarding the high levels of the bacterial strain campylobacter found on raw chicken.

First came the allegations that a large poultry factory was violating hygiene rules for two major chicken producers. Then later in the year the Food Standards Agency released a report stating that 70% of fresh whole chickens bought in the UK were contaminated with some level of campylobacter.

Does it matter?

Food poisoning resulting from campylobacter contamination is a serious concern. Yet what much media coverage has failed to acknowledge is that, when raw chicken is cooked properly, it will be completely safe to eat regardless of the levels of campylobacter it harboured pre-cooking.

Here’s a refresher on how to cook chicken safely.

1) Store your raw chicken in a clean, sealed container on the bottom shelf of the fridge – where it cannot touch or drip onto other foods.

2) If your chicken is frozen and needs to be defrosted, it’s safest to do it in the fridge. You can also defrost it in cold water as long as your chicken is in sealed packaging or a leak-free bag. (Defrosting your chicken on a work surface at room temperature can help bacteria to reproduce.)

3) Do not wash your raw chicken before cooking. Washing will not kill bacteria and, worse, will cause droplets of bacteria-contaminated water to splash off your chicken and onto your kitchen surfaces.

4) Wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands. Scrub thoroughly for 10-20 seconds with soap before and after handling raw chicken as well as at any point during the preparation process when you need to touch something else – be it another food item, a cooking utensil or a cupboard handle.

5) To prevent cross-contamination it’s good practice to use one chopping board for meat and one for vegetables. After prepping your raw chicken, scrub your chopping board thoroughly with antibacterial washing liquid and hot water.

6) The general rule is that your chicken is cooked when the juices run clear. Yet colour alone isn’t always a reliable barometer of whether or not your chicken is safe to eat. The key is to make sure the internal temperature of your chicken has reached 165oF (73.9oC) or above. (This will ensure all bacteria have been killed off.) For that you will need a food thermometer. The best place to measure the temperature is the thickest part of the leg, which takes the longest to cook.

7) If you are saving leftover chicken, allow it to cool (for a maximum of two hours) before refrigerating.

8) Stored correctly your leftovers should be safe to eat for two to three days. If you are reheating make sure the chicken is piping hot throughout (again, a food thermometer is useful here). But when removing chicken from the fridge, be judicious. If it smells or looks off, it’s best to get rid.
Chicken is a wonderful, tasty staple of dishes around the world. And when cooked correctly, there’s no need to let media scare-mongering spoil your fun. If you have any questions, please leave a comment and we will do our best to help.

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