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.
Traceable, safe and farmed with care message helps builds UK shoppers’ confidence in British food
In a strategic move to promote British food ahead of Christmas, Red Tractor has launched a dedicated campaign to inform and persuade shoppers of the benefits of supporting the traceable, safe and farmed with care principles behind much of the food that they buy.
A core part of Red Tractor’s strategy is to help advance and protect the UK food industry. The Red Tractor logo acts as a signpost for shoppers who want to support hardworking British farmers, particularly during this time of acute supply chain disruption and government drive for free trade agreements. The scheme’s targeted advertising approach has broadcast video on demand at its heart and is aimed at the principal shopper in every household. The new campaign is heavily weighted towards digital, social channels and print media to reach time-poor consumers who shop keenly on price.
It is expected to reach around two million unique viewers as they catch up on the nation’s favourite shows, including The Great British Bake Off, Grand Designs and Our Yorkshire Farm.
Growing trust in food
Findings from the recent Trust in Food Index has revealed that the UK public overwhelmingly backs British food as safe, traceable and good quality, and one of the main reasons behind this confidence is an implicit trust in the systems of regulation and assurance that exists here.
Today new figures from Red Tractor’s build on these findings and, show that most British consumers trust Red Tractor, a key pillar in the UK’s system of standards and regulation.
More than £14bn worth of home-produced food and drink sold in the UK bears the Red Tractor certified logo, having met rigorous standards throughout the supply chain – from farm to pack. Research from YouGov has found that around three-quarters of shoppers who are aware of Red Tractor say it as an independent source they can trust, with four out of five people saying that they actively looking for the logo when buying food.
Jim Moseley, Red Tractor’s chief executive, said: “At this time of unique change and pressure on British farming, and the unprecedented scrutiny and uncertainty over the food we eat. We know that the priority for consumers is having high quality, safe and affordable food that is farmed with care. The Red Tractor logo means that the food they buy has been responsibly sourced, safely produced and comes from British crops and animals that have been well cared for.
“Red Tractor was set up with a clear mission to rebuild the public’s trust in British food. Now, as the largest and most comprehensive assurance scheme, covering 75 per cent of agricultural produce, we are uniquely positioned to champion British food and farming with the nation’s shoppers and diners.
“Research shows that more than three quarters of UK primary shoppers (21.5 million) are familiar with the Red Tractor logo, and four out of five people actively look for the logo on pack, making it the most trusted food marque in the UK.
“This is not only fantastic news for Red Tractor, but more importantly it’s a huge seal of approval for the hard work and commitment of the millions of people who work in the UK food industry.“
British shoppers’ trust in UK food has climbed, partly due to ever-increasing awareness of the Red Tractor logo. Founded in 2000, Red Tractor is a world-leading food chain assurance scheme that underpins the high standards of British food and drink. It is the UK’s largest food and farm standards scheme and certifies products to rigorous standards from farm to pack.
Reaching and informing shoppers about the safety, traceability and responsible production of UK is central to Red Tractor’s campaign work. A TV advert which ran between March and May this year was watched by 21.3 million UK adults on live TV, had 3.3 million views on on-demand TV streaming services and 38.9 million views on YouTube.
In a recent survey, four out of five shoppers who typically buy the food for their household said that they now recognise the Red Tractor logo – surpassing all previous records for the brand.
Prompted awareness among primary shoppers – who are shown the logo and asked if they recognise it – stands at 77 per cent recognition, up two per cent on the previous year.
Meanwhile, unprompted awareness – where primary shoppers are asked about food assurance logos and namecheck Red Tractor without being given any prompts or reminders – has now hit 47 per cent, an increase of six per cent from 2020.
The UK’s first ever “Trust in Food” Index has been launched by Red Tractor and YouGov, capturing the UK public’s attitudes to food and drink.
The research, conducted by YouGov with over 3,500 adults across the UK, found the public overwhelmingly believes that the UK’s food is safe, traceable and good quality. British consumers trust UK food as much as water quality and NHS care, and significantly more than the police, judicial services, and other daily essentials and utilities, such as gas and electricity.
● UK public overwhelmingly backs UK food as safe, traceable and good quality, in stark
contrast to food from China and the USA
● Ireland and New Zealand top choices for UK food imports, followed by Sweden, Germany,
Italy, Denmark and the Netherlands
● More than twice as many Brits trust food bought in shops than in takeaways
● UK standards regime and assurance schemes key factor in high levels of confidence in UK
One of the main reasons behind the public’s confidence in British food is an implicit trust in the systems of regulation and assurance that exist in the UK. Half (48%) of those surveyed refer to high standards and regulations as the reason they trust food in the UK. Respondents also feel that inspection and assurance schemes such as British Lion and Red Tractor (70%) play a greater role than the Government (64%) in ensuring that the UK’s food is safe and of good quality.
Significantly, while 84% of UK consumers trust food from Britain, levels of trust in food from outside the UK vary wildly. Ireland and New Zealand maintain the highest levels of trust amongst UK consumers, followed by leading EU food producers such as Sweden, Germany, Italy, Denmark and the Netherlands. By contrast, only 25% of Brits trust food from the USA and just 11% trust food from China. Commonwealth countries such as Australia and Canada lag several of the major EU food producing countries. Just 17% of British consumers trust UK food a little or not at all. Of these, 40% base their criticism on the belief that the food available to them is unhealthy, overly processed or in other ways low quality.
More than twice as many people trust food bought in shops than trust takeaways and deliveries. Consumers’ trust in food ingredients they buy to prepare themselves at home is very high. This is especially the case with food perceived as local, bought in specialist or ‘hyper-local’ shops, which is trusted by more than eight out of ten people. Almost as many people (78%) trust food bought from supermarkets. The level of trust falls slightly for food prepared in restaurants (70%), with much lower trust in food from takeaways and deliveries (37%). The low level of trust in the takeaway sector is especially interesting given the exponential growth of the sector in the years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Christine Tacon, Chair, Red Tractor, said: “The most important finding in this Report isn’t simply that most people trust the food they buy in the UK. It’s the reason why. By far the biggest reason why people trust food here in the UK is the strength of our food standards and our independent assurance schemes.
“Crucially, the parts of the UK food industry where those standards and schemes are less visible to consumers – such as takeaways and food service businesses – have much lower levels of trust. More than twice as many people trust food from shops and supermarkets, where front of pack logos and certifications are visible, than trust takeaways and deliveries, where those standards and the regulations they follow are harder to track and see.
“What that tells us is that if we want to maintain trust in UK food over the coming years, the most important thing isn’t what trade deals we sign with other countries. It’s whether we keep backing our food standards regime, led by the Food Standards Agency, and supported by the many food assurance schemes which have been established over the past twenty years.”
“There is a lot in this report that is encouraging for us at Red Tractor, but it’s also shown that we have much more work to do. In particular, we need to put a much bigger focus on the food service sector and make sure that food with poor standards and low traceability doesn’t creep in through the back door. We’ll be repeating this research and publishing this Index every year to see how we are performing and whether UK consumers are continuing to trust the food we consume.”
Professor Susan Jebb, Chair of the Food Standards Agency, added: “I find it really encouraging to see the results of this poll which reaffirms our knowledge that people have strong levels of trust in UK food. Since its inception over 20 years ago, the FSA has become a highly trusted and independent regulator and we’re proud to support organisations like Red Tractor who have a shared aim of bringing openness and transparency to the food system so that people can have confidence in the food they eat.”
Neil Parish MP, Chair of the House of Commons EFRA Select Committee, said: “As a nation, we take pride in our nutritious home-grown food. This report shows how high trust in our food is, and this is reflective of our famers’ and growers’ commitment to high standards for animal welfare and the environment.
“It is important that the public’s confidence is maintained, which is why our farming sector must have the full support of the Government in upholding the highest standards while delivering affordable, healthy food. As the Government looks to introduce its new, more environmentally-focussed system of financial support for farmers, it is important that this agricultural transition does not present farmers with a choice between financial stability and high standards.”
Tim J. Smith, Chair of the Trade and Agriculture Commission, said: “Being able to trust that the food we buy has been produced to the highest possible standards is vital for all of us. This report gets to the heart of the challenge policymakers face as we embark on new trade deals.
“On the one hand, we have the prospect of greater choice and more affordable food from around the world. On the other, we have the right to expect the food we eat in the UK to have been produced to the same ethical, environmental and animal welfare standards. Over many decades those food standards, thanks to the hard work of the whole supply chain, have been greatly improved in our domestic food system.
“In our final report of the Trade and Agriculture Commission, we were clear that there should be no race to the bottom, no backsliding, and no turning back the clock on those standards as we develop our new trade strategy. A key part of this is continuing to promote transparency, traceability and labelling, in particular, country of origin labelling and third-party certification schemes such as Fairtrade, Red Tractor and the Rainforest Alliance.
“This report shows that the Government and food industry must do more to improve that transparency in the food service and out of home supply chains, and it is important that we take every opportunity to do so to maintain the levels of trust we have built in food in the UK. The Government are yet to respond to the Commission’s final recommendations, but it is crucial they take the findings from this report into consideration when they do.”
Susan Barratt, CEO of IGD, added: “It is hugely encouraging to see UK shoppers continuing to place their trust and confidence in the food and consumer goods industry, as demonstrated in this Red Tractor and You Gov research. This echoes ShopperVista from IGD data, which for many years has consistently shown that shoppers trust the food and consumer goods industry to provide safe, quality products.”
Nadim Ednan-Laperouse, Founder of the Natasha Allergy Research Foundation, said: “This report from Red Tractor shows again the scale of the UK allergy epidemic. Around a third of us are looking for information about allergens when we buy food, which is why it’s so important that the Government has now introduced Natasha’s Law.
“It’s crucial that everyone with a food allergy and intolerance can genuinely trust food bought and sold across the UK, and that’s one of the reasons why we’ve set up a parliamentary petition calling for an allergy tsar. We urgently need someone to act as a champion for people with allergies across the country and to make sure we’re doing everything we can to prevent sickness and avoidable deaths.”
The report can be viewed in full here
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.