Roast dinners dying out: could tax kill it for good?

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Cooked chickensPaul Sakuma/AP/Press Association Images

The traditional Sunday roast is on its knees. More than half of us don't bother with one on a Sunday any more, and a third manage to stick to tradition less than once a month. A new campaign is warning that things are set to get even more desperate, because the government has imposed a new tax on a meat which is central to more than one in four of these roasts.

So what is going on: is this the end for the roast dinner?


Dying out

The survey, carried out for the 'don't tax our roast' campaign, saw that the popularity of the Sunday roast is dying a death, with 60% saying they don't have a Sunday roast every week, and 30% saying they don't manage them once a month.

People say that the obstacles to tradition are a lack of time, and cash. Some 47% of people say they have less money to spend on things like the Sunday roast than they did the same time last year. Meanwhile, 24% of people say they just don't have time for a traditional Sunday meal.

Tax

The campaign highlights that chicken is by far the most popular roast meat - cooked by 56% of people. Beef comes a distant second - chosen by 17% of people. And the chicken of choice for the time-poor is under threat.

Apparently 26% of people use a hot rotisserie chicken to save time with their roast, and of course from today the notorious 'pasty tax' is adding 20% to its price (roughly 88p), as all food that is sold hot is classed as take-away food.

Unfair

The campaign, backed by the meat industry and Morrisons, claims that the tax on cooked chicken is unfair. The supermarket says that its research shows that people don't buy whole hot chickens as a take-away in the same way they would buy something like a sausage roll. Apparently four in five Morrisons' shoppers buy it to eat later as part of a main meal.

The government watered down the tax to allow hot food left on the shelf to cool down to have a 0% VAT rate. However, for food safety reasons, rotisserie chickens cannot be left to cool down for a prolonged period in the same way - so they cannot escape the tax.

Jamie Winter, fresh food director at Morrisons, said: "It's unfair to take a 'catch-all' approach without accepting that there will almost always be important exceptions. The simple fact is that our customers buy their whole rotisserie chicken as part of their weekly shop, not as a takeaway. Our customers tell us that they simply cannot pay more in these difficult times. That's why we're helping them to fight this unfair tax on the Great British Roast."

Peter Bradnock of the British Poultry Council said: "This 20% tax hike in the price of Red Tractor chicken from British farms bought freshly-cooked in the supermarkets will hit shoppers and result in lost production for farmers. It is a sad irony that this 20% VAT tax will not apply to imports of already-cooked chicken meat coming from countries like Thailand, and our government is now making it even harder for British chicken farmers to compete on our own markets."

They are calling concerned consumers to add their signature to their petition.

Are you worried?

So are we concerned. Should we be spending our time and energy worrying about a tax on hot chickens?

There's an argument that the tax is wrong and chickens should have joined the list of exceptions, because by the time it has been round the supermarket and into the car boot it's cold anyway.

However, equally there's an argument that nobody is too time-poor to cook a roast. If we do the whole thing properly, with our own roast potatoes, stuffing and Yorkshire puddings, we may have to set aside a couple of hours. Let's face it, the weekends are usually long enough for a couple of hours of communal family cooking.

If we're out and about or we have other commitments that keep us away from the kitchen for all but the briefest of times, then we can cut a few corners and roast chicken pieces. The whole lot takes less than 30 minutes - less than the time we'd wait for a take-away delivery - and we get to have a traditional, family meal for far less money.

Maybe this is the nudge we need to rethink our weekly traditions, and with a bit of creative thinking we could actually end up saving money.

What do you think? let us know in the comments.

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