Not On The Label

Felicity Lawrence's book that exposes international crimes behind mass food production.

20th May 2004 · Last updated: 5th October 2016


Book coverMy latest book to read is Not On The Label: What Really Goes into the Food on Your Plate by Felicity Lawrence. It exposes some of the international crimes behind the mass-production of food that hurts not just animals, but humans. She has studied areas of the food industry for many years, travelling the globe to uncover the facts giant corporations don't want us to know. Her results are shocking. The overall picture appears to be one of increasing corporate control, but with dire consequences for already poor farmers, along with truly frightening potential health problems, such as incurable diseases caused by over-use of antibiotics in factory farming, aimed at selling mass quantities of food to supermarkets cheaply. Not just meat, but salads too are revealed as the source of scandalous industry practices. She also covers beans, bread, fruit, coffee and ready meals. She explains why "a third of all apples are thrown away", why "beef waste ends up in chicken" and why "all wines taste the same".

Of course she also suggests many ways to tackle these problems. It's a must-read book. What follows is an excerpt of chapter 1 'Chicken'. I defy anyone to read this whole chapter and want to carry on eating chicken. Vegetarians will naturally be horrified by what they read. It seems there is no end to Man's cruelty against animals. What you read next is not the worst. There is much worse after that. Read the book and see.

It was the scald tank that got me in the end. I had expected trouble in the slaughter room, but we'd moved through there without incident. We'd already passed the electrocution bath and I'd slipped easily enough round the neck cutters slicing through carotid arteries. There wasn't as much blood as I'd feared.
I had been smuggled into a large chicken factory by a meat hygiene inspector who was worried about standards in the poultry industry. We were gazing into a hot-water tank into which the dead birds were being dipped at the rate of 180 a minute, to scald the skin and loosen the feathers before they went into the plucking machine.
It was 3 p.m. and as at many factories the water was only changed once a day. It was a brown soup of faeces and feather fragments and at 52oC 'the perfect temperature for salmonella and campylobacter organisms to survive and cross-contaminate the birds', the hygiene inspector pointed out. We moved on to the whirring rubber fingers which remove the feathers. 'Plucking machines exert considerable pressure on the carcass which tends to squeeze faecal matter out on to the production line. It only takes one bird colonized with campylobacter to infect the rest. The bacteria count goes up tenfold after this point,' he continued. I found myself wondering who had done the counting.
'But free-range and organic birds...' I started to ask without wanting to know the answer.
'...nearly all come through the same plants, yes. There's no difference except that in plants which process organic birds you can tell the organic ones. They are used to being allowed to run about a bit and so they try to escape when they are shackled.'
We went outside. There, towering stacks of birds in crates, delivered earlier in the day by a progression of juggernauts, were being given a chance to calm down before being shunted into the slaughter room. They need to settle for the men to be able to pick them up by their feet and hang them upside down on the moving belt on which they begin their journey through the factory process.
The crates are made of plastic mesh with holes. The birds, which have typically been kept indoors all their lives, in twenty-three-hour-a-day low light for maximum productivity, tend to panic when they are caught and taken into the fresh air and daylight for the first time. As they open their bowels, the faeces fall from the crates at the top down through the tower on to those below.
'Pretty daft, isn't it?' the inspector said.

Comments (2)

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  1. peter copsey:
    Thought provoking although horrifying book. Who is to blame? Is it us the consumers (greed) or the supermarkets (also greed). One criticism.....back cover says the author discovers 'why do all wines taste the same?' I never did see any reference to this in the book.

    Posted on 25 July 2004 at 2:37 pm
  2. A L J Hall:
    AS a UK Poultry inspector of 25+ years experience. I feel I must point out some misleading information in the above exerpt.
    1. The temperature of 52 degrees is not the 'perfect' environment for the survival of the mentioned pathogens and in fact would destroy a very large percentage of them.
    2. As each bird leaves the dip tank it removes with it a bout 1/4 litre of water and a smaller amount due to overflow caused by carcase drag on exit. This means that in the example quoted 2500 litres fresh (potable) water is entering the dip tanks per hour.
    3. Most systems employ a 'dual tank' system whereby the first stage is designed to remove gross contamination from the feathers' The birds then pass to the main tank.
    4. A 'contra flow' system is used for fresh water input whereby fresh water eners the system at the point where the birds leave it and this water is 'overflowed to the first stage. On exit birds enter a low pressure spray wash using potable water.
    5. Most problems vis-avis contamination occur in the evisceration and further processing stages
    Any competent UK inspector would know this and recieves a comprehensive training to spot any deviations and act upon them.
    I have never observed any difference, at the slaughter point, between free range, intensivley reared or so called oganic chicken.

    Albert L J Hall MRSH MAMI(UK)

    Posted on 15 September 2004 at 11:32 am