Landlines: Texels continue to be breed in demand at Kelso Ram Sales

The annual Kelso ram sale is usually seen as an indicator of farming confidence and last Friday the 4,312 rams sold averaged £611, down 12% on the year.

Almost as significant, the percentage sold of the entries made was down 10%. Texels continue to be the breed in most demand and top price of the sale was £14,000 for a ram from Peter and Lyn Gray, Scrogtonhead, bought by Brian Redhead and Jonathon Watson, Bowsden Moor.

Confident about their future or not, harvest has to continue as and when weather permits. Yields in our area are reported as reasonable to good, prices as low to even lower.

The large-scale protest by farmers about low prices and slumping incomes in Brussels last week, more than 5,000 waving banners outside the European parliament, produced as I suggested it would a lot of lip service by politicians and little else. In EU terms, 500 million euros spread across the farmers of almost 30 member states amounts to very little. Britain’s farmers’ unions reached that conclusion immediately and the protests continue.

Campylobacter, a long word for a tiny, nasty, bug is the most common cause of food poisoning in Britain. It is found almost everywhere, including on far too many supermarket chickens according to recent figures. The percentage of affected chickens was highest from Iceland’s shelves, lowest in Tesco, but the finger could be pointed at every supermarket.

The good news is that thorough cooking and good kitchen hygiene virtually eliminate the risk of food poisoning caused by the bug. But undercooked chicken – asking the question of who by choice eats undercooked chicken? – and poor hygiene, such as unwashed hands, means that the bug kills more than 100 people a year and costs the economy an estimated £900 million.

This time it is not all the fault of the supermarkets.

Campylobacter has been with us a long time and still no one knows precisely how or why it infects chickens so extensively, as it is also relatively easy to kill with disinfectants. Chickens, however, show no obvious signs of infection. It is only detected during tests at slaughterhouses and later during random tests at supermarkets. Anyone who has seen a poultry slaughterhouse in operation, even the best run and regulated, knows that it’s a scene of boiling water, feathers, blood and guts and the chances of bug infection spreading, if it is present, are multiple.

Good hygiene and ‘bio security’ starts with poultry farmers, then slaughterhouses must do their best, before chicken reaches supermarkets and high street butchers, institutional caterers such as schools and hospitals and tens of thousands of takeaways of varying, and variable, standards.

Use scrupulous hygiene when dealing with raw chicken, particularly washing hands, and make sure it is cooked thoroughly.