Free-range charcoal chicken 3 Apr 2014
We all know about battery hens. But what about the charcoal?
There’s a shop around the corner from my home called ‘Free-range charcoal chicken’. I like the purple signage. And every morning there’s a nice smiley man who stands outside and greets passers-by.
So I went in and ordered some chips. I was the only person in the shop, and the smiley man took my order.
Now you might find this hard to believe – I certainly did – but the walls of the shop were quite covered in photos of lumps of charcoal lying in fields of open-air grass.
So I asked the man about it.
He chuckled and said that many people enquire. He said that his shop’s premise was built on 100% free-range charcoal.
I’m a lifelong vegetarian, but this really seemed weird.
I couldn’t hold back from asking whether charcoal really needed free-range conditions. I mean, isn’t it found underground? Isn’t it just an inanimate fossil?
The man lent over the counter, like he was about to tell me a vital secret.
“You know,” he spoke in a low tone, “once there was a time when people thought caging hens was totally natural.”
He swallowed, then continued. “They laughed at the idea of chickens roaming free. Said the industry couldn’t afford it. Said no one would care.”
He handed me a well-designed colour flier, titled: ‘Free-range charcoal: Better for you, better for the planet, better for the charcoal’.
I held the flier between nervous fingers and slowly edged back from the counter. I glanced around once more, just to be sure of what I had seen. This man, I pondered … this man was either mad or a foreteller of things to come.
I slowly backed out of the shop. Free-range charcoal? Maybe the smiley man knew something. I wondered: who was I to mock such things? Who indeed?
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