Sainsbury's 'Touch-Free Chicken' Is for Millennials Scared of Raw Meat

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CC BY 2.0. Raul.Perez -- A pile of raw chicken

Something is making me queasy about all this, and it's not the raw meat.

If you have ever complained about Millennials being unable to handle real life, the following piece of news is going to fuel your doubts even more. British supermarket chain Sainsbury's has announced the arrival of "touch-free chicken" in its stores, starting early May. This is ready-to-cook chicken packaged in individual plastic pouches because "customers, particularly young ones, are quite scared of touching raw meat." This tidbit comes from Katherine Hall, Sainsbury's product development manager. Speaking to the Sunday Times, Hall continued:

"These bags allow people, especially those who are time-poor, to just 'rip and tip' the meat straight into the frying pan without touching it."

According to the Evening Standard, Sainsbury's made its decision based on data collected by research firm Mintel: "It found that 37 per cent of millennials, born after 1980, preferred not to touch raw meat due to the fear of contaminating the food."
As you can imagine, the backlash is mounting. There are a few sides to this issue, all of which resonate strongly with this treehugger.

First, the plastic waste: We don't need more of this stuff. Sainsbury's has said it wants to cut down on plastic packaging, but now it's adding products that use redundant plastic. We need to be moving *away* from such ridiculously over-packaged convenience products.

Second, the reason: If you don't want to touch raw meat, then you shouldn't be eating it. There is plenty of dissociation that happens when people eat meat, choosing to consume the very animals we find cute in real life (that's a whole other conversation); but to refuse to acknowledge what one is consuming not only seems naive, but also terribly disrespectful to the animal whose life was taken for a meal.

Nevertheless, people's fears should kickstart a very important conversation about what's really going on. Young people do, in fact, have good reason to be scared. The situation isn't as bad in the UK, but in the United States the majority of supermarket chicken is contaminated with salmonella. This is because of how animals are raised, kept in cramped conditions, unable to behave naturally, and pumped full of antibiotics to make them grow abnormally fast. Contaminated carcasses are plunged into bleach to make them market-ready -- something that's unnecessary in the UK, or even Sweden, where chicken is produced with zero levels of salmonella. What are they doing differently?

As Mark Bittman said in 2013, "We should not have to handle chicken as if it were a loaded gun." The contamination issue definitely needs to be addressed; that would be a much worthier goal for grocers like Sainsbury's, instead of making it easier for shoppers not to think about the source of their food.