The disturbing prospect of chlorine-washed chickens from the US going on sale in British shops in a post-Brexit trade deal last year sparked an explosive row at the heart of Government.
But beyond the politics lies the story of why American poultry needs such drastic chemical treatment – and of the horrendous conditions at the farms where they are bred and reared.
Now whistleblower farmers have revealed the full horror of the suffering to The Mail on Sunday, including how:
- Tens of thousands of super-sized 'Frankenstein' birds are crammed in vast warehouses.
- The chickens, which weigh up to 9lb, often buckle under their weight and must live without natural sunlight.
- Chickens frequently die before they reach maturity and many are left covered in their own faeces, turning warehouses into vile breeding grounds for disease.
Unlike in the UK and Europe, there are no minimum space requirements for breeding chickens in the US. America also does not have any rules governing lighting levels in the sheds and, crucially, its farms have no maximum allowed level of ammonia, which indicates how much urine and faecal matter is present. This means there is no limit on how much can fester inside the sheds.
There is no legal requirement to wash US chickens in chlorine or other disinfectants, but 97 per cent of its birds are cleaned in this way after slaughter.