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Chicken run(s)

A recent lockdown lip-synch performance my choir did to entertain our very surprised director was set to the Three Degrees‘ song ‘When Will I See You Again’, which unfortunately reminded me of the Food Standard’s Agency ad from 2006 warning would-be-BBQers about the dangers of under-cooked sausages. And since we’re now able to have garden-based gatherings of up to 6 people (remember to socially distance folks unless you’re in a ‘bubble’), it follows that the air will soon be filled with sounds of glasses chinking, kids pelting their neighbours with water bombs, and the sweet smell of something yummy on burning charcoal. Ah, the traditional British BBQ: quintessentially summery, but how healthy is it? And is it good for the planet? Stick with me and we’ll make that a double “yes” in just 2000 characters. Kind of.

Let’s face it, when it comes to menus, most of us still have a largely meat-centred platter ready to pop onto the grill. And chicken takes gold in the popularity contest. Regardless of whether you prefer legs or breasts, chicken is lower in cholesterol and saturated fats (these contribute to heart disease) than beef, although our bovine friends are a better source of iron and zinc. That‘s the immune system and your red blood cells sorted then. But don‘t use this as an excuse to choose chops over chard; veggies, pulses and seeds can pack a punch as well. In fact, figs, almonds and sunflower seeds have a higher iron content than rump steak per 100g. Yes way. But, sigh, if you can’t contemplate BBQ without meat, then try to buy organic if you are able pay the extra for it. ‘Organic’ meat is currently the highest standard of animal welfare (compared with e.g. free-range, battery, caged etc) in the UK so if you care about eating meat that hasn’t been doused in antibiotics and chlorine, and has had room to flap, peck and explore, this is the label to look for. And many local butchers such as The Butcher's Block, M&K, Richardson's of Woodthorpe, and Knavesmire Butchers remain open and/or will deliver despite COVID, and will let you use your own tubs rather than the standard non-recyclable plastic or polystyrene plastic trays. And there's your planet point for the day!

We’ll talk about antibiotics in the food chain another time. Very very bad indeed. But once you've skewered and basted, please ensure everything is cooked all the way through. Ever spent 3 days clinging to a toilet whilst in the gastrointestinal misery of weapons-grade Campylobacter, Salmonella, or E. Coli? If so, you’ll have learned the hard way that it’s not the legend of your survival but the graphic details of your bowel movements that are gonna come back to haunt you at any subsequent important meal or family gathering if your kids are in charge of story-telling. The bottom line (sorry) is: Chicken tartare = bad. Why not (and this one isn’t for our herbivorous friends, sorry) properly cook that chicken in your oven first and merely transfer it over to the coals for those smoky and sizzling finishing touches instead of risking Return of The Raw (I think that’s a Tolkien spin-off isn’t it?). Alternatively you could ditch the meat altogether (lost half my audience here oops) and broaden your meat-free BBQ horizons? Try some of these yummy suggestions.

Well that’s all we've got time for this week folks. Fingers crossed you don’t burn down the neighbour’s newly topiaried hedge, or have to erect a gazebo in gale-force winds and torrential rain. All standard squares on the BBQ bingo card right? But most importantly remember: never BBQ on your roof. The steaks are too high...

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