Author: Guy Poppy
Chicken is the UK’s favourite choice of meat. Whether it is grilled, fried, baked or roasted its adaptability in recipes and affordability to feed families up and down the country are some of the reasons why millions of chickens are eaten every day.
But what sits behind it should also be celebrated.
Over 90% of poultry meat farms in the UK are Red Tractor assured and the standards they are required to meet to gain this status surpass that which is required by both British and European legislation. High standards are important not just for the chickens, but for us as humans too since whether chickens are hygienically reared will inevitably have implications on how safe and the quality of the meat for us to eat.
Red Tractor has been working with farmers, vets, scientists and animal welfare and food production experts for more than two decades, to deliver a range of evolving standards for Red Tractor poultry farmers to meet. Last year Red Tractor conducted almost 1900 inspections of chicken member farms, to make sure that shoppers or diners looking for the Red Tractor logo could be confident that animal welfare, food safety and hygiene had been prioritised, to high quality, fully traceable standards.
HEALTH & WELFARE
The health and welfare of birds is at the heart of everything we do. All Red Tractor Certified Standards chicken have access to 10% more space than is required by European legislation. As well have access to enrichment in the form of pecking objects, bales and perching to encourage natural behaviours and natural light. All staff are required to hold professional qualifications in poultry farming and each farm must have a health plan to monitor the health of the birds and to reduce antibiotic use- all of which are not legally required but are issues raised regularly by consumers as important to them and their families.
HYGIENE AND FOOD SAFETY
In the UK, we have amongst the highest hygiene and food safety standards in the world. We know this to be true because when we look at metrics such as foodborne illness, Britain is among the countries that have the highest standards and therefore the least problems. Traceability is a key part of this, which is why every single Red Tractor chicken can be traced back their egg and parent stock.
But we must not be complacent. The reason we perform so well across food safety and standards is because of our proactive approach. We excel in surveying where a problem may have emerged and very quickly tracking back through the supply chain to determine the cause and solution. In addition, Red Tractor also has a dedicated pool of assessors who carry out specific detailed checks to determine the veracity of any claims made about the standards the food is being produced to, once the birds leave their farm.
In addition to and underpinned by our core Certified Standards, Red Tractor also offers two further chicken schemes. This modular approach, which includes Free Range and Enhanced Welfare, means that shoppers and diners can have a clear and trusted visual marker, to help them make informed decisions on what they wish to buy- whatever their budget.
The Enhanced Welfare Standards meets the requirements of the Better Chicken Commitment and has the support of Compassion in World Farming. These Red Tractor chickens are slower growing breeds with 30% more space than is required by European legislation and even more natural light and enrichment in barns to encourage natural behaviours like pecking, scratching, wing flapping and use of perches.
Red Tractor Free Range chickens have access to outdoor ranges and even more space and enrichment indoors.
As you are planning your meals for your family over the coming weeks, months and years, I would urge you to choose Red Tractor Assured food when you shop. Your choice really can make a difference and by simply looking for the Red Tractor logo, you are effectively voting for welfare, high hygiene and safe food that can always be traced right back to British farms.