How chicken got big: Dr Chris van Tulleken unwraps the forces that shape what we eat

New series begins BBC Radio 4 on Monday 30 October at 11am

According to Dr Chris Van Tulleken, we’re a nation addicted to chicken

"We are addicted to chicken. It’s the most consumed meat on the planet and so it’s the perfect food to understand our food system in all its vast, fascinating complexity." — Dr Chris Van Tulleken


BBC Radio 4

Fed - with Dr Chris Van Tulleken is a brand-new food podcast for BBC Radio 4, investigating the entangled web of forces that shape what ends up on our plates. In the first series, Planet Chicken, Dr Chris digs into the story of one of the most widely eaten meats on earth– to try to get to the truth of why we eat so much of it, and what that means for the birds, for us, and for the planet.

Over the last century the consumption of chicken has risen rapidly. But why? And what are the consequences? From uncovering the history of how chicken was first produced on a vast, industrial scale to exploring the surprising environmental consequences of high welfare farming, the eight-part series uncovers the murky truth behind the global food system – the dilemmas it poses - and how this huge unseen system impacts our everyday choices.

If there’s one thing Chris knows, it’s what he should and shouldn't be eating. He’s across the dangers of ultra-processed foods and at the same time he’s confident he knows what we ought to be eating: good, old fashioned whole food with recognisable ingredients, no mysterious additives and no harmful rubbish.

But recently, Chris has been getting asked more questions – by neighbours, people on the street, even government ministers, and he’s realised there’s a massive gap in his food knowledge. Sure, he knows what happens in our bodies once that delicious gravy-drenched chicken dinner passes our lips but what about everything that comes before that? Where it’s from, how it was reared, how it was processed? Can he say what toll the process of getting that chicken from farm to fork might’ve have taken on the animal, the environment, the nutritional content? The series explores how and why chicken ended up being so ubiquitous in the first place – and asks what that story tells us about economics, politics, our society, and ourselves.

In a world where we’re subtly influenced at every turn by advertising and price tags and where ALL food choices ultimately come with a cost of some sort – how much do any of us really know, or want to know, about the consequences of our dinner?

Dr Chris Van Tulleken says "We are addicted to chicken. It’s the most consumed meat on the planet and so it’s the perfect food to understand our food system in all its vast, fascinating complexity. My expertise is in how food affects us once it passes our lips so I wanted to understand what forces shape what we eat and how they affect us and the planet.”

Commissioning editor Daniel Clarke says "The story of how chicken got big brings in politics and economics and business and ethics as well as consumer tastes and nutrition – and is a completely fascinating way of exploring the big forces that shape what we eat. At a time when many people are reconsidering how their eating habits might impact the environment, it’s important to shine a light on the past, present and future of our global food industry."

Dr. Chris van Tulleken is an infectious diseases doctor at UCLH, one of the BBC’s leading science presenters and is the author of the Sunday Times bestselling Ultra-Processed People: Why Do We All Eat Stuff That Isn’t Food…and Why Can’t We Stop?.

Produced by Emily Knight and Lucy Taylor

Executive Editor: Martin Smith


Fed - with Dr Chris Van Tulleken begins on BBC Radio 4 on Monday 30 October at 11am and is available to catch up on BBC Sounds

Source BBC Radio 4

October 23, 2023 3:00am ET by BBC Radio 4  

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