“Warning: may contain fragments of shell.”
That’s what is says on the side of my carton of egg and bacon sandwich filler. Or as Mr Waitrose likes to call it: “essential Waitrose free range egg & bacon deli filler”.
The front of my pack sells a vision of pastoral loveliness:
“Made with pork from British pigs, outdoor bred then housed in airy barns.”
We might get a sense of honest British rural folk, tending their beloved British pigs in the green and pleasant to the sound of Vera Lynn singing “There’ll be British bluebirds singing British songs over the British white cliffs of Dover. Which is in Britain.”
Nigel Farage and UKIP rejoice! These are British pigs, as British as they can be. It doesn’t say anything about the nationality of the chickens, mind. They might be nasty foreigners for all we know.
One thing we do know about the chickens is that they are free range, or at least their eggs are. The side of the pack says:
“Chopped hard boiled free range egg with smoked bacon in free range egg mayonnaise.”
So it’s doubly free range, then?
The chickens seem to have a better life than the pigs. The pigs, we are told, are outdoor bred and then housed in airy barns. In other words, apart from a brief spell of al fresco dogging (or should that be pigging?) the poor little oinkers spend the rest of their life in barns. In other other words, battery farmed.
Now where’s the equality in that? The chickens are free range, but the piggies are oppressed urbanites. The only time they get out in the fresh air is for a bit of hanky panky. Equality for pigs, I say!
And just what is an “airy barn”? Presumably it’s a barn with air in it. Which is nice. I wouldn’t want to think that my sandwich filler came from a pig that had lived in a vacuum.
“Airy” has this lovely feeling of space and freedom. It’s an estate agent word. It feels somehow happy, joyous, liberated. I’m not exactly sure how that relates to battery farmed pigs. They might have very little room to move around in, but at least there is plenty of fresh air above their heads.
That means that the pack is somewhat ambiguous. When it says “free range egg & bacon”, it doesn’t mean “free range egg” and “free range bacon”. It means free range eggs… comma … deep breath … and bacon which isn’t free range. Apart from when they are having sex. Which probably isn’t very often. Or recreational.
Here’s a funny thing. The carton in my hand says “Made with pork from British pigs, outdoor bred than housed in airy barns.”
But the picture of the same pack on Mr Waitrose’s website says: “Made with pork, outdoor bred with care, by british farmers who share our values.”
Where have the pigs gone? Now it’s the farmers who are british (lower case) and there is no mention of the poor little animal. Or its airy barns. Are we so squeamish about our food that we need to airbrush the animal out of the picture?
I can’t help smiling at the thought of the british (lower case) farmers who share Waitrose’s values. Whatever that means.
And I am so glad that they are bred with care. We wouldn’t want them to be bred carelessly, now would we?
But I keep on coming back to the warning on the side of the pack. “May contain fragments of shell.”
Just what in the name of all that is nutritious am I supposed to do with that piece of information? Should I sieve my sandwich filler to remove all possibility of inedible matter? By its very job description it is hard to spot offending egg shell once it is served. There is the slight matter of the bread getting in the way of further visual inspection.
What this is really saying is … “don’t sue us”. It was put on the carton by some legal eagle type in a sharp suit. The idea is that when you choke on a bit of shell, you can’t take Waitrose to court for damages. You should have read the warning on the pack, shouldn’t you?
Then there is that little word at the beginning of the sentence. “May” contain fragments of shell. Some people use “may” and “might” interchangeably, but there is a subtle difference. “May” implies permission. Not only could there be egg shell in your deli filler, but it is allowed to be there.
So that’s okay then?
To summarise, we have free range eggs from free range chickens that might not be British, together with non-free range bacon from battery farmed British pigs which have sex in the open air. The whole thing may contain fragments of shell but don’t sue us because we have warned you about it on the pack in writing so small that you almost certainly didn’t read it when you bought it.