Iceland, the low budget supermarket, has announced it is to start selling red grouse before the start of the shooting season, according to an article in yesterday’s Daily Mail (here).
How are they managing that? Well, they’re planning on selling frozen red grouse, that were presumably shot last year. Sales are due to begin in early August and will be limited to 12 packs in each store.
According to the Mail’s article, ‘A spokesperson from Iceland said: “Kezie Whole Grouse are sourced from moors in northern England and in Scotland, rich in heather and audited to ensure they adhere to the code of good shooting practice“‘.
The CEO of Iceland, Malcolm Walker, lists ‘shooting’ amongst his ‘greatest enthusiasms‘.
Iceland has an interesting statement on its website about corporate responsibility which includes the following quotes:
- “Iceland has always been a responsible retailer, committed to providing safe, healthy and ethically sourced food”.
- “We also respect the environment…”
- “All Iceland brand products are clearly labelled on the back of our packs with a full and honest list of our ingredients…”
- “We encourage healthy eating…”
- “Iceland brand products adhere to a strict animal welfare policy”.
If you look around the Iceland website, and also on google, you’ll find a fair bit of bragging about how they introduced various food safety policies ‘before Marks and Spencer’. They’re a bit behind M&S when it comes to selling red grouse though; M&S abandoned grouse sales last year because they were not able to guarantee a responsible source of red grouse (see here).
So, in light of Iceland’s stated corporate responsibility policy, and the ever-increasing concerns about how environmentally damaging the driven grouse shooting industry is, here are some questions for Malcolm Walker (his email address is provided at the foot of this post) –
1. When were your frozen red grouse actually shot?
2. For how long can you safely freeze grouse meat? We couldn’t find any specific information about this on the website recommended by Iceland (Cool Cookery – see here) nor in an otherwise helpful article recently published in the Daily Mail that suggests varying periods for uncooked meat (although game not specifically mentioned) of between 3 to 12 months (see here). If your red grouse were shot last season (between 12 Aug – 10 Dec 2014), that would suggest they’ve already been frozen from between 7 -11 months.
3. Red grouse are shot with lead ammunition. Lead is a poison. Lead is highly toxic to humans. The health risk of lead poisoning has been well-documented (e.g. see here, here and here). In 2012, the Food Standards Agency published guidance on eating game shot with lead ammunition:
“The FSA is advising people that eating lead-shot game on a frequent basis can expose them to potentially harmful levels of lead. The FSA’s advice is that frequent consumers of lead-shot game should eat less of this type of meat“.
What steps have you taken to alert your customers to this advice, how does this advice fit in to your commitment of providing ‘safe and healthy food’, and do your labels (with a ‘full and honest list of our ingredients’) include information about how much lead is in each grouse?
4. There’s a new disease spreading through red grouse populations in both England and Scotland called respiratory cryptosporidiosis, also known as Bulgy Eye. Some red grouse infected with this disease may not show any apparent symptoms. What measures have you taken to ensure the grouse you are selling are not infected and what advice are you providing to your customers about consuming diseased grouse?
5. Many grouse moors in England and Scotland are associated with the illegal persecution of birds of prey, particularly the hen harrier. From which (named) grouse moors are your red grouse sourced and how have you, as ‘a responsible retailer’, independently assessed whether they are involved with this criminal activity?
6. Intensively-managed grouse moors rely on a number of questionable practices, including the mass unregulated killing of other wildlife such as foxes, stoats, weasels, crows and mountain hares. How do these practices fit in to your commitment ‘to provide ethically sourced food’? Are these unethical practices carried out on the moors from where your grouse are sourced?
7. Intensively-managed grouse moor practices such as heather burning and drainage can damage internationally important peatland and increase greenhouse gas emissions (e.g. see here). How do these environmentally damaging practices fit in with your statement that Iceland ‘respects the environment’? Are these damaging practices carried out on the moors from where your grouse are sourced?
Emails to Iceland CEO Malcolm Walker: email@example.com
For those of you on Twitter, you might find the following useful:
@MrPeterAndre (the current ‘face’ of Iceland with a known interest in wildlife & animal welfare issues)