Friday, January 30, 2009

Tesco chickens, PR bunch and the credit crunch

Chickens, Hugh and Tesco Poo: The awfully arrogant Tesco spinner
View here:

You may have seen the second documentary earlier this week by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall on Channel Four, highlighting some of the horrifying conditions that cheaper Chickens endure before being slaughtered.

The disgusting PR arrogance from Tesco HQ at Cheshunt was enough to make customers fume at their TV sets. It's labelling is 100% accurate and all its chickens live in harmony... right?

TC has been inundated with comments about the contents of the programme. We'd like to hear more of your views - so why not post your complaints in response to the programme on this post.

Will you be buying Tesco chickens again? Or are you now buying 'free to roam' only? What do you think of Tesco's response?

Here's a selection of complaints received by TC on 31st January 2009:

Dear Sir/Madam,

As a loyal Tesco customer I was extremely dismayed to watch Channel 4's Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's documentary on your treatment of chickens. Not only was I horrified by Tesco's interpretation of the RSCPA standards, and of how far short you fell of actually adhereing to these basic guidelines; but I was angered by the treatment shown to anyone who dares to challenge your practices. I consider this treatment corporate bullying at its most powerful.This behaviour is something that has been highlighted to customers in recent times through several mediums and something which I feel strongly against. Your PR response for this show was arrogant and typical of what one has come to expect from a powerful chain like Tesco's.
As a result of your treatment of us mere mortal customers and small shareholders I have decided that I shall never shop in your store again, choosing stores that treat people with respect and social conscience instead, and I look forward to sharing my views with many others.

Yours Sincerely,
Aoife Kelleher

Gareth said...

Re : Intensive Standard Chickens

Complete corporate arrogance - well just watch Tescos.... people power will win the day and ultimately MAKE you take action because the only thing you understand is ££££££.

Im taking my £5000 p.a shopping business elsewhere and never stepping foot in a Tescos ever again.

Bye Bye.

And another complaint, also received today. Alison sent a duplicate to Sir Terry Leahy:

To Whom it may concern,
Firstly, can I ask why it is so incredibly difficult to find an e-mail address so I can write to you...There is not 1 general contact e-mail on you website.

The reason I am writing is to register my utter disgust at tescos after watching the Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's channel 4 programme about your lack of policy and disgraceful underhand tactics with regards chickens. I must spend at least £300-£400 each month at your various stores, so I am not just a do-good hippy jumping on a band-wagon. Your company makes billions of pounds profit every year, yet you seem to be happy to put basic morals and basic animal welfare below the need to make still more money.

I doubt your'e overly interested in my complaint or my concerns so I will keep it brief.....unless you change your policy and begin to act responsibly, I will no longer shop at your stores. I have written my club card details below so you can confirm this.
With this regard, even in the current economic climate, you have shamefully underestimated public opinion.

Alison Holden


Dear Sir/Madam

Re: Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Tesco Chicken program

After watching the highly publicised ‘Chickens, Hugh & Tesco Too’ aired on Channel 4 on the 26 January I feel compelled to write to express my disappointment and anger at the way Tesco management have dealt with the matters raised by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

It was pleasing to see Supermarket chains such as the Co-op and Sainsbury’s respond to Hugh’s request in a timely manner as well as promote their association with the Freedom Food scheme, in which the Co-operative group was the first major retailer to support this initiative and Sainsbury’s launching the freedom food endorsed chicken range.

The programme highlighted how a shareholder of an organisation can have a say in the running of the business in which they own a portion (however small) of a company. It also highlighted the attempts that Tesco took to thwart and obstruct a shareholder in exercising their shareholding rights. As the program highlighted it seemed that Tesco ‘changed the goal posts’ to prevent a resolution being put forward at the Tesco AGM. Chicken package labelling was also highlighted and how the wording used is meaningless and fails to state explicitly how the birds are actually farmed. When queried by Hugh about having accurate labelling stating whether a chicken was reared indoors or outdoors the Tesco representative (the one who appeared on camera) stated ‘We don’t need to patronise our customers like that’. The comment caused quite an outburst at our household and clearly demonstrated a clear lack of understanding on behalf of the company. The comments and attitude displayed by the Tesco representative did not help the cause and proved to strengthen in the viewers mind that the company’s position and attitude on this issue is clearly opposing the increased consumer awareness and understanding of moral and ethical standards of chicken farming. I applaud the Coop in taking steps to introduce their new chicken labelling which is explicit in identifying the environment a chicken is raised. I also am happy to see Sainsbury’s educating the consumer and promoting the ‘Freedom Food’ range and donating a portion of sale price to the Woodland trust. Further from the 5th of February Salisbury’s have stated in their brochure (see attached) that they will stop selling eggs from caged hens. It would appear that Sainsbury’s are promoting and advancing their freedom food range and strict standards of welfare. On the other hand it would seem, certainly based on the recent television program, that Tesco management have chosen to adopt a different direction.

The program highlighted a range of areas that Tesco management rated poorly in – they are least willing to cooperate with responding to request for interviews for products consumers buy, thwart attempts and change rules for shareholders to put forward resolutions, and, it would appear, do not fully appreciate the gravity that such a program and surrounding publicity can generate and influence a company’s public perception and good will. I do not hold shares in any food producers or companies or associated with any animal welfare organisations. I am a concerned consumer who believes in high standards of welfare for livestock that produces the food we buy. I do believe that Tesco can change the public perception and travel along the path of increasing the welfare of its chickens (through its farmers and suppliers) and chicken labelling as its competitors have or are in the process of doing.

I look forward to hearing from Tesco.

Yours sincerely



Does the Credit Crunch affect whether you buy an intensive farmed Chicken or Tesco Finest? Post your response to this blog post for the public. Or even perhaps you've opted for Asda or Morrisons....? Tesco recently announced a loss of revenue due to the launch of their 'discounter' brand...