Whenever you buy and enjoy food and drink that’s certified to Red Tractor standards, you’re tucking into something that’s always British, and traceable, safe, and farmed with care. Looking at the first pillar of our three-part promise, what do we mean when we talk about food traceability?
You might not know that relying on spotting the Union Jack on packs is not a cast iron guarantee that the product originated in the UK.
The Union Jack incorporated into the Red Tractor logo shows that food has come from British farms and is processed and packed in the UK, the tick represents rigorous checks at each step of the certified food supply chain and the heart means it’s carefully farmed.
Our assurance scheme covers not just farms. but the entire British food supply chain. This means the Red Tractor logo can only be used on food that has been grown, reared, transported, stored, and packed to the required standards as defined by our rules.
Here’s an example of what we cover using the nation’s favourite meat, chicken. Our scheme encompasses the food’s entire journey, from assured breeder farms, hatcheries handling eggs and producing chicks, right through to the chicken you buy.
We carry out rigorous checks to verify that each step in the supply chain is certified – this includes all licensed food processing sites, as well as farms.
Licensees are essentially food businesses we approve and license so they can make a Red Tractor claim on food and drink products. By claim, we mean they’re using their Red Tractor license as a selling point either to other food businesses or as a selling point direct to shoppers and diners.
These checks happen every day, with our inspectors randomly selecting, without prior notice, products which carry a Red Tractor claim at a licensee’s site and tracing the production journey through the supply chain to the British farms they originally came from.
Here’s our senior technical manager Joanna King to explain more.
This is how you can be certain that in looking for the Red Tractor logo, you’re buying genuinely British food that’s traceable, safe and farmed with care. To find out more, visit our assurance website.
As the UK’s largest and most-comprehensive food assurance scheme, we get our fair share of questions from shoppers, farmers and the media.
The debate about standards and the impact of post-Brexit trade deals is fierce, fueling a surge in interest and scrutiny of how food is produced in the UK.
In recent months, the Red Tractor team has received an influx of queries driven by the various Free Trade Agreements declared by the UK government. People look to us because independent assurance schemes like Red Tractor are seen as a cornerstone of trust in UK food, as a recent report has found.
In June this year we got news of an agreement with Australia, and in October a deal with New Zealand was announced. We received messages from shoppers asking what it meant for the food they see on supermarket shelves, and how they could be sure that what they choose to buy is grown, reared and produced in the UK.
The answer is that for food which can be traced back to British farms and is produced to trusted standards, always look for the Red Tractor logo.
To help, we shared a simple infographic on social media which clearly highlighted some key differences in the legal farming practices between the UK and New Zealand. This was based on the facts, legislation and the knowledge of our technical experts who live and breathe the nitty gritty detail.
Some claims and even an edited version of our infographic later surfaced in reply. Understandably, this has led to some confusion.
Let’s examine each of the points made in turn.
In sharing this post, we were answering legitimate questions put to us as the UK’s largest and most-trusted food assurance scheme, and we did so transparently and in good faith.
Red Tractor was founded two decades ago with the core purpose of rebuilding consumer trust in the entire British food industry after numerous damaging food scares. We’ve come a long way from the bad days of the 1990s where, for example, shops and restaurants would actively advertise how they didn’t sell British beef.
Today, we remain as committed as ever to our founding purpose to reassure shoppers that the food and drink that they buy to feed their families is traceable, safe and farmed with care.
Cumbrian beef and sheep farmer Alistair Mackintosh has been appointed as the new Vice Chair of Red Tractor, the UK’s largest and most comprehensive food assurance scheme.
In addition to roles as Chair of the National NFU Livestock Board and Vice Chair of the European farmers’ union Copa-Cogeca, for the last five years Mr Mackintosh has held the position of Red Tractor sector Chair for the beef and lamb board.
During his tenure he has been instrumental in addressing key issues in his sector such as driving up improved animal welfare outcomes with the establishment of annual vet visits to improve the working relationship between vets and members, introducing recommendations for medicine training and promoting the responsible use of antibiotics.
Mr Mackintosh will formally take up his new position in November, when fellow farmer Andrew Blenkiron’s second term comes to an end after almost eight years.
Red Tractor Chair Christine Tacon said: “I am delighted that Alistair will become Red Tractor’s next vice chair. His wealth of knowledge and experience will be a considerable asset as we navigate the significant challenges our industry faces posed by climate change, international trade agreements, shifting public attitudes and the supply chain shortages.
“Findings from our Trust in Food Index have revealed how the public feels about the food they eat. This independent research found that by far the biggest reason why people trust British food, is the strength of our food standards, regulations, and independent assurance schemes like Red Tractor.
“If we want to maintain this high level of trust in UK produced food over the coming years, we need to make sure that we continue to show strong leadership to protect the integrity of the food chain and British agricultural standards.”
Ms Tacon added: “I would like to sincerely thank Andrew Blenkiron for his leadership and years of dedicated service to Red Tractor, not only as vice chair, but throughout the scheme’s 21-year history.
“Personally, I am grateful for the support and guidance he has given me since my appointment as chair in January. I know everyone who is involved with Red Tractor will join me in wishing him all the best for the future when his term ends.”
Alongside supporting and deputising for the chair, Alistair will be responsible for chairing the Standards Committee which oversees and recommends policies and actions on technical aspects of Red Tractor’s operations which effect all sectors.
The recruitment process for the Beef and Lamb sector board Chair will begin later in the year.
Red Tractor’s chief executive Jim Moseley says he is “delighted” to be appointed to the government’s new Trade and Agriculture Commission and will work hard to protect and promote the interests of UK farmers.
The new Commission informs government and the public on how new Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) are in-line with UK laws on animal welfare, animal and plant health, and the environment. Its members have a wealth of knowledge and expertise across the agricultural, food production, veterinary, animal welfare, environment, and international trade policy.
Advice given by the Commission will feed into a government report which will be laid before Parliament ahead of the ratification of any new FTA and following the signature stage. The analysis it gives will be considered by MPs in the House of Commons before future trade deals can be officially signed off.
“I am delighted to join the new Commission and will work hard to protect the interests of UK farmers while promoting the export of our outstanding produce,” says Mr Moseley.
“As an independent group, a key part of our role is to highlight to government where trade deals it seeks to strike could undermine the high standards for food and farming here in the UK.
“This is a great opportunity to contribute to future trade deals, ensuring the objectives of liberalising trade, while upholding the UK’s high standards in food production, animal welfare and environmental protection.”
Now a statutory body, this new watchdog is a strengthened version of the original Commission which was established last year to advise ministers on the UK’s approach to post-Brexit trade agreements.
In a major step forward for the nation’s favourite meat, Red Tractor is backing a solution to make higher welfare chicken a more affordable choice for price-conscious shoppers.
Responding to the cost and sustainability challenges of moving to a higher welfare model for chicken production, the Red Tractor is the first and only UK food assurance scheme to include a pioneering slower growing breed of bird on the approved list for its farmer members.
The move is endorsed by the restaurant chain Nando’s, supermarket group the Co-op and animal welfare organisation Compassion in World Farming.
Supply chain costs linked to meeting the Better Chicken Commitment – a set of standards supported by Red Tractor aimed at leading the food industry towards higher welfare practices – are often highlighted as a barrier to its widespread adoption, which can in turn make an unaffordable option for families on a budget.
Now, a higher welfare breed called Hubbard Redbro has been accepted by Red Tractor’s Enhanced Welfare chicken scheme following thorough research by NGOs, international industry experts and producers, in partnership with retailers and the foodservice sector.
Studies found that the Hubbard Redbro has equal higher welfare outcomes compared with other breeds used for indoor production. Crucially, research also showed that it has a lower feed conversion ratio compared with other slower growing breeds, meaning that it is a more economically viable and sustainable breed for farms of all sizes.
The Hubbard Redbro breed is more efficient in converting feed into live weight and meat. That means it needs less feed than other slower growing breeds to reach the finished weight and desired specification. If retailers and the supply chain passes these lower production costs on to shoppers, higher welfare chicken will become more affordable for all.
As a result, the breed boasts a significantly smaller carbon footprint because it helps cut the use of environmentally damaging feed, such as soy.
While the breed has been accepted by the Better Chicken Commitment, Red Tractor is the only UK assurance scheme to include the Hubbard Redbro on its approved breed list. Unlike other schemes, Red Tractor is the only food and farming scheme which guarantees that the chickens are always British.
“Chicken is the UK’s favourite meat. It’s adaptability and affordability to feed families up and down the country are some of the reasons why millions enjoy chicken every day,” says Red Tractor chief executive Jim Moseley.
“Over 95% of chicken farms in the UK are Red Tractor assured, and the core standards they are required to meet to gain this status go beyond both British and European legislation. High standards are important not just for the welfare of the birds, but everyone who enjoys eating chicken.
“Red Tractor is uniquely positioned as a valuable tool which safeguards the supply chain of retailers and foodservice brands, while reducing the audit burden for farmers.
“We have worked with NGOs, farmers, vets, scientists, animal welfare and food production experts to deliver a range of evolving standards for Red Tractor poultry farmers to meet consumer demand and expectations.
“By introducing the Hubbard Redbro bird into our approved breed list, we are able to help reduce costs in the supply chain, making this a more affordable higher welfare option for British families. The superior environmental credentials of this breed make for a further positive step forward for the poultry industry.”
The Enhanced Welfare scheme – which was launched by Red Tractor in 2020 – already meets all the requirements of the Better Chicken Commitment. It uses slower growing chicken breeds and requires more space, natural light and enrichment.
As with other Red Tractor standards, it covers the schemes’ key principles on traceability, animal welfare and food safety. It delivers full supply chain assurance from parent stock, hatchery, catching, transport and slaughter.
Find out more about how Red Tractor certified chicken is produced
Offering customers higher welfare chicken is an important step as part of restaurant chain Nando’s wider sustainability goals according to its UK and Ireland Product Director Judith Irons.
“We are conscious that the whole industry moving towards this by 2026 is not an easy task, but with the Red Tractor Enhanced Welfare standards, and their decision to include the Redbro Hubbard, is a huge step forward.
“We welcome this news from Red Tractor and look forward to working closely with them to make higher welfare chicken not only an option at Nando’s, but across the whole hospitality industry.”
Nando’s signed up to the Better Chicken Commitment in 2020 and has over 450 restaurants in the UK and Ireland.
“We are delighted that the Hubbard Redbro has been accepted under the Red Tractor Enhanced Welfare scheme,” says Dr Tracey Jones, Global Director of Food Business at Compassion in World Farming.
“This intermediate growth rate bird has gone through a rigorous approval process, aligned to the Better Chicken Commitment, and will undoubtedly help move the market for higher welfare chicken forwards.
“Having another commercially viable breed approved with good welfare outcomes is an important enabler for companies who have signed up to the Better Chicken Commitment and wish to use Red Tractor as their third-party auditor for higher welfare indoor production.”
Find out more about Red Tractor’s poultry standards
The Co-op’s Head of Agriculture Caroline Mason says the inclusion of the breed will deliver a bigger pool of breed choice and help those farms in the UK who want to invest in the high welfare journey, supporting those customers who want to purchase higher welfare poultry.
“Co-op has been part of the comprehensive, multi-stakeholder, science led review of this breed, as we appreciate the importance of developing a higher welfare chicken breed which not only continues to provide value to customers but supports our vital environmental commitments.”
Author: Jim Moseley, Red Tractor chief executive
Following the biggest ever consultation of Red Tractor’s standards, I’m pleased to outline how we are advancing Britain’s largest food and farming scheme.
We routinely review our standards every three to four years across all sectors, making sure our members are farming to meet the evolving expectations of shoppers and market requirements, as simply as possible. However, this year’s consultation made history as we opened the process to our 46,000 farmer members.
Our standards need to achieve two key objectives – first to meet the needs of consumers who expect high standards but shop keenly on price, and second to provide farmers and the supply chain with manageable standards. Getting that balance right then also satisfies the needs of food businesses and government.
Proposals were put before the food and farming industry, developed over a 12-month period and drawn up with input at every stage of the process from all key stakeholders of the scheme – farmers and farming unions and associations, vets, academics, processors and retailers.
This has been enormously helpful for informing the work to reconcile the new version of the standards, with more than 3,000 pieces of feedback were received from across the industry.
To make sure that the consultation as broad as possible, we hosted countless meetings and took written questions, emails and phone calls, with a total of 743 responses to our survey on the standards.
Every single response was taken seriously. We reviewed each piece of feedback, assigned it to relevant standards and fed this into the committee review process for consensus. I’m proud of our rigorous three-staged process, which adheres to the gold standard recommendations of the British Standards Institute.
With its structures of sector boards and technical committees, and through the comprehensive feedback of the consultation, Red Tractor is in a fortunate position to achieve a crucial balance that benefits the UK food supply chain.
You can find out more about these and the many dedicated people who work with Red Tractor on our website.
These latest our standards – the fifth version in Red Tractor’s 21-year history – have now been agreed and will come into effect from 1 November 2021. This follows the consensus of each of the technical advisory committees, sector boards and the standards committee, and a final seal of approval from the main Red Tractor board.
We are confident that these are the right standards to take British farming forward, helping our members keep up with the evolving expectations of consumers and market requirements as simply as possible, securing maximum market access for minimal audit burden.
Here’s to a secure and sustainable future for British food and farming.
In response to the release of the National Food Strategy, which is set to inform government thinking on agriculture and healthy eating, Red Tractor chair Christine Tacon says:
“We welcome the idea of an integrated food strategy and support government’s ambition to improve our national diet whilst reducing the environmental impact of our food production.
“Red Tractor has a key role to assure consumers that food produced in the UK has been done so to high standards, supported by simple, well recognised on-pack labelling.
“Our latest research shows that the Red Tractor logo delivers consumer confidence, with more than 70% of consumers saying that it positively influences their decision to buy food products.
“Red Tractor standards will respond to market demands as we look to grow trust in UK sourced food and drink at a time of unprecedented scrutiny and focus on what we eat.”
Henry Dimbleby, the author of the independent report commissioned by government, argues that the national diet and the way food is produced needs to adapt to tackle obesity and cut carbon emissions.
Read the full report on the National Food Strategy website.
© Amazon Prime Video
Author: Andrew Blenkiron, Red Tractor vice-chair
In my 36 years of farming, I’ve concluded that while many things have changed – governments, farm ministers and tractor horsepower quickly spring to mind – there’s one part to being a farmer which is a constant.
To do this job, you need to be so many things. An economist, a vet, a salesman, a weather forecaster, an agronomist, an entrepreneur, an office manager, a social worker, a handyman and, preferably, a fortune teller.
Jeremy Clarkson of fast cars fame has discovered the joys and dramas of farming life after deciding to take over the running of the Cotswolds farm, that he’s owned since 2008.
His happy-go-lucky venture into farming is documented in Clarkson’s Farm, his latest TV show on Amazon Prime Video.
He might not be the most obvious farming advocate but, with Brexit only just behind us, free trade deals on the horizon and a climate emergency looming large, his programme has landed at a poignant time for agriculture and has sparked fresh interest in where food comes from.
Since I began farming more than three decades ago, I’ve seen public awareness of the work that goes into producing their food ebb and flow. This has undoubtedly been influenced by numerous food scares of the past – salmonella, BSE, horsemeat… need I go on?
Today the British public understandably expects a lot of farmers. Rearing livestock to world-class welfare standards, making sure their food is safe to eat and is fully traceable, and caring for the environment.
At the same time, we live in an age when you can click a button and goods are whisked to your door almost instantly.
As a result, society has become even more removed from the realities of food production, only serving to increase the level of misunderstanding.
I’m talking about the kind of farm inspection which makes even one of the biggest names in TV quake in their wellies.
Check out episode 6 of Clarkson’s farm, where he goes through a routine Red Tractor farm inspection to see what I mean. Watch the video clip below.
No farmer looks forward to the day when the inspector calls, but these thorough checks are in place to make sure the British food that we eat is traceable, safe and farmed with care.
Ultimately the high degree of trust that is borne out of this painstaking process is a massive win for farmers and shoppers alike.
If you’ve enjoyed watching Clarkson’s Farm and want to see first-hand how farmers produce your food, I recommend that you take part in Open Farm Sunday on 27 June.
Thousands of Red Tractor assured farms are signed up to welcome you onto their farms for free – all you need to do is go to the website and find a farm local to you.