I hate Iceland. Bloody stupid insolvent country with it’s stupid hot springs, stupid volcanoes and stupid high standard of living. Stupid Iceland.
Actually, I don’t. I’m lying. I don’t have anything against Iceland, the country, even though it gave us Bjork and lost lots of our money. I’m talking about Iceland, the British supermarket, which is so low brow, Jeremy Kyle holds his after-show parties there. The shop that currently has Jason Donovan shamelessly flogging their disgusting “party food” dressed in a top hat, red jacket, stockings and suspenders. The store that literally delighted in Kerry Katona’s chav-queen status when she was fronting their campaigns. The retailers who would probably dig up the corpse of Jade Goody and mount it on a pole if they thought it would sell them a few hundred more family packs of grey, gristly sausage rolls. The frozen food specialists who have such low prices that you know corners must be being cut when it comes to preparation of their products. I’m fairly sure that I’m not just being a food snob when I get deeply suspicious of seeing family sized steak pies for a quid – or deals like that. Where are they getting meat that cheap from? Are they the cuts that just aren’t good enough for McDonalds – or perhaps that Winalot have rejected as being not quite decent enough quality for canines?
My biggest problem with cheap meat, as a whole, is that you know that welfare standards are going to be pretty piss poor when you’re eating a ready meal which costs less than a Mars Bar. Even though I’m not a vegetarian any more (I have been for over six years of my life in total), it’s important to me that the animals slaughtered for meat are well treated and enjoy a reasonably fulfilled life. As fulfilled a life as a cow, pig or chicken can reasonably expect, of course. I’m not suggesting that we supply them with cable television, the new Xbox 360 Kinect and champagne and strawberries nor do I think it is necessary to take them for a night out every Friday and treat them to a large mixed kebab after, but I do believe that it’s vital that we do the right thing by them while they’re still alive by treating them humanely, with respect and a certain amount of gratitude for the sacrifice they’re making for us. Of course, they don’t know they’re making that sacrifice and I don’t suggest telling them, either. That can really spoil a lamb’s day if you let them know you’re going to chop their leg off and serve it up with mint sauce and potatoes. I certainly don’t recommend explaining what stuffing is and what you’re going to do with it to a turkey, either. It unnerves them, slightly.
Iceland aren’t the only culprits when it comes to serving up cheap meat. Asda’s “Smart Price” ham, for example (known in our household simply as “crap ham”), is so disgusting, even our dog turns his nose up at it – and he’s been known to drink from the toilet even when somebody has forgotten to flush. However, Iceland do aim very low. Take their patronising, out-dated tag line, “That’s why Mums go to Iceland” – forget everything else, that’s enough for me to not want to shop there. It’s almost like the past thirty-plus years and the advances in sexual equality haven’t happened. Of course, it’s obvious that they’re not aiming their products at middle class families where both parents may work, or where the Father is just as likely to be the home-maker. Their target audience is a little more low-income than that and they, with their adverts, appear to equate low income with low intelligence and low standards. In fact, given the way they appear to see their customers, a more honest tag line would probably be “Our low quality food is dirt cheap. That’s why chavvy Mums on benefits with loads of kids and not much money to spend on food (because they’ve spent it all on cigarettes, booze and scratchcards) go to Iceland”.
Sorry, that’s harsh and untrue in a lot of cases. There are lots of people struggling to make ends meet who make their wages, pensions or benefits go further by shopping in places like Iceland and I’m well aware that principles, when it comes to animal welfare in food, can be expensive. Many people don’t feel as if they have a choice, so I understand and empathise. I spent just over a year of my life (nearly fifteen years ago) at the mercy of the welfare state and it wasn’t fun. Shopping was a long process where I trawled from shop to shop picking up all of the things on offer, just to make my money stretch further – so I do understand. However, even then I had my limits on what I’d buy. I tried some of the cheaper foods but they were truly disgusting. Things like fatty casseroles which have bland, diarrhoea-like gravy, mushy, indistinguishable vegetables, grey, tough meat and artery-clogging dumplings – the kind of meal you would imagine would be supplied by the state in 1984 and Winston Smith would have to miserably consume whilst plotting his sexcrime in doublespeak. I swear that no amount of poverty would make me eat that kind of thing again. Economy burgers, value sausages… I’ve tried them all once. Once is enough. Seriously, if I didn’t have much money, I would be much more likely to buy vegetables and pasta and knock myself and my family up a cheap, tasty filling meal than purchase a cardboard box full of disgusting mechanically recovered meat mixed with cereal, rusk and fat and serve it up in a long-life bun. I don’t know how or why people do that to themselves or, even worse, their kids. Unless they live in such misery that they are purposely attempting to shorten their lives, in which case, they may be on to something.
Anyway, that’s why this Dad doesn’t go to Iceland. Not just because of their image or dreadful advertising campaigns. As for their latest one featuring Jason Donovan – don’t feel too sorry for him. I get the impression that he normally dresses like that anyway and getting paid for it was just a perk.