Judge and Jury: M&S sticks its beak into a food debate where it is wanted - Marks and Spencer’s frontal assault on battery hen-produced eggs has met with general approval from the media, which views this as a responsible action by an eco-fri

Organic food at vastly inflated prices has been steadily finding its way into supermarkets in increasing quantities for some time now Gestures have been made towards ecological issues with the offer of paper bags, dump bins for recycling plastic carriers and the like. All perfectly good and ethical steps, directed (one suspects) at the PR advantage as much as at eco action.

Organic food at vastly inflated prices has been steadily finding

its way into supermarkets in increasing quantities for some time now

Gestures have been made towards ecological issues with the offer of

paper bags, dump bins for recycling plastic carriers and the like. All

perfectly good and ethical steps, directed (one suspects) at the PR

advantage as much as at eco action.



With the decision to stop selling any eggs from battery hens M&S has

upped the stakes in a serious way.



This is a far cry from offering a few organically grown carrots imported

from Holland (currently M&S are unusual in not stocking some token

organic food). It is, or certainly appears to be, a serious commitment

to ethical responsibility in the food chain by a serious retailer.



M&S has seized the high ground on an issue which has become of interest

to many more than the relatively small groups of committed Greens and

animal rights activists.



In the wake of scandal after scandal, culminating in the BSE crisis, the

whole question of food production has become one of increasing concern

to the public at large. In particular it has impacted on the middle

class consumers who are typical Marks and Spencer food shoppers.



Media coverage of this decision has not been as heavy as one might have

expected but it has been good and, more importantly, has been serious

and approving and in the right places.



Moreover, this is likely to be a story which will run and run and M&S is

in the enviable position of being trailblazers.



In the view of this judge and jury, M&S has scored a PR coup and has

done so by making a decision whose significance goes much deeper than

just public relations. And M&S has handled it in just the right way -

serious reportage of an ethical decision, taken by a responsible

organisation.



As a tiny shareholder in an organic farm, and someone who bans all

chemicals not approved by the Soil Association from garden and

allotment, I may not be the most unbiased judge but I, for one, will

feel better about paying the premium prices charged for food by M&S in

the future, even though I can’t buy my cigarettes there.



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