Jamie Saves Our Bacon [video]
Editors' note: Last week, the UK's Channel 4 ran a multi-format series called The Great British Food Fight, featuring different programs with Gordon Ramsay, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Heston Blumenthal, and Jamie Oliver. Eat me daily will be reviewing all of these shows this week. Today, we're covering Jamie Oliver's Jamie Saves Our Bacon. We're including video clips, because (a) these shows are all very good, and (b) it's unlikely that these programs are going to air anywhere else outside of the UK. If you want to see them... well, we obviously don't suggest you pirate them. That would be illegal.
Jamie Saves Our Bacon is Jamie Oliver's latest project, an education campaign to get consumers to purchase local pork products and support their struggling national pork industry. The UK banned ultra-confining, inhumane sow stalls in 1999, but in the rest of the EU, they will continue to be legal until 2013. Because of the higher costs involved in raising pigs locally, half of the UK's pork producers have gone out of business. Cheap imports, reared on lower standards, have flooded the market.
The show literally follows pigs from piglet to plate, and it's not always pretty. On camera, sperm is collected, a sow is inseminated — there are video segments of piglets having their tails cut and being castrated, and most graphically, an adult pig is stunned, hoisted, and its jugular cut. There's even a segment where he confines humans to small cages for 24 hours, so they can be empathetic to the pigs' confinement.
Jamie's point is that there is a great deal wrong with the state of pork in the UK. Labeling in grocery stores obscures the nation of origin so consumers couldn't support local industry even if they wanted to — and they might not want to, since even government institutions don't go out of their way to buy UK pork. To top it all off, demand is so high for certain cuts that they need to be imported into the UK, while locally-reared inexpensive cuts go unwanted, only to be exported out, creating an industry-damaging imbalance that Oliver tries to correct. Appealing to the budget-minded, he shows how to prepare cheap cuts like shoulder, belly, and neck, which, immediately following the program, resulted in sales of pork belly joints to increase 66% and shoulder joints by almost 270%.
Jamie Oliver is truly trying to elicit change by trying to convince people to sometimes pay more for local pork, cook less-popular cuts, and getting commitments from governmental and industry representatives. It's no longer only about local food being more tasty or better for the environment, it's not just about humane animal treatment, the argument has shifted to one of national consequence.