Page last updated at 12:20 GMT, Sunday, 8 June 2008 13:20 UK

Chef faces 86,000 chicken bill

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
The TV chef thinks Tesco wants to stop the resolution being passed

TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has been told he must pay Tesco 86,000 to put his concerns about chicken welfare to the supermarket's shareholders.

The River Cottage presenter wants Tesco to adopt a policy forcing suppliers to improve conditions for birds.

He is tabling the proposal to the supermarket's annual general meeting.

However Tesco says that he submitted the documents too late - and it is only fair that he should bear the cost of sending the papers to investors.

'Waive the bill'

The chef came up with the idea of the AGM proposal after Tesco declined to appear on his programme, Hugh's Chicken Run - which explored the way that chickens were treated.

Tesco's most basic chicken is certified under the poultry industry's Assured Chicken Production standard.

But Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall wants all retailers to meet the standards laid down by the RSPCA's Freedom Food scheme.

He is now looking to raise the money through his website - holding an auction for prizes including a fishing trip and the chef cooking a meal at the winner's home.

"I think Tesco should waive this bill, which it is at its discretion to do. At the same time, it's clear that it doesn't really want this resolution," he told the Independent on Sunday.

His show, along with another chicken-related campaign by Jamie Oliver, have helped push up sales of free range chickens in the UK by 50%.

Tesco defended its position, saying it was "not fair that shareholders should have to pay for all the documents to be produced and distributed".

"Had he approached us in reasonable time we would have known, and possibly been able to accommodate him," a spokesman for the supermarket chain told the BBC.

He added that the firm was within its rights to send out the AGM documents when it did and that it had extended the time the chef had to pay the bill to Wednesday.

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