Red Tractor standards

19.09.13 Red Tractor standards

Key areas for Red Tractor assurance standards to focus on were cited as welfare, food safety and traceability. Yet some hoops needed to jump through for the standards were seen as pointless and an unproductive use of the farmers’ time.

The consumers are the main focus, it is they who need to understand the value of the scheme, which means both farmers and retailers need to subscribe to the Buy British attitude; bring the message back to education rather than always on marketing, although export markets have been opened the industry and logo needs to mean something to consumers for them to be persuaded to purchase upon recognisation of quality.

Red Tractor was definitely a positive for food assurance standards, but there is little known about it apart from those in the know; hence it needs to improve its awareness and the industry needs to support it also.

The discussion held on Thursday 19th September 2013 was a discussion about Red Tractor assurance standards. It generated a total of 428 tweets on the topic from 67 participants. These included farmers, agri-food businesses, rural advisors, land agents, lawyers, journalists, academics and NFU officeholders, as well as members of the general public.

Which Red Tractor assurance scheme or schemes are you a member of currently? Are you a member of any other schemes, Nature’s Choice, Freedom Foods etc?

  • I use SAI Global. Started out with FABBL and have remained with the same scheme.
  • Red Tractor combinable crops, sugar beet, fresh produce (vining peas & potatoes) and beef
  • Red tractor dairy/beef. I’ve been FF twice but not currently – cheese buyer didn’t think it delivered a benefit, used it on our own brand but didn’t get the rate of sale needed
  • Higgins potatoes own add-on audit. Was a LEAF member but got bored of the tedious audit process.
  • Assured Combinable Crops, freedom foods & Lion Code, (free range layers), Farm assured Welsh livestock

What are the key areas you think RT Assurance Standards should focus on (welfare, food safety, environment)?

  • To add value a farm assurance scheme must offer something above and beyond the norm and that is a challenge for Red Tractor
  • Welfare and standard operating procedures for dairy in my case
  • Key areas should be welfare, and food production safety, the public need clear cut knowledge of our products
  • The answer is to get into the schools and educate the kids early ,start at the beginning and you will end up ok
  • Food safety & traceability is priority (is what the schemes were all about in the first place).
  • UK has a lot of poor people. Price is huge factor. Get farming/food production in2 school, installing a value on us
  • Welfare and environment also essential for auditing as the public/customers demand it!
  • Food safety and traceability are key areas for RT
  • Plus if the auditing process keeps Defra and the RPA from the door all the better!

Do you think any of the standards are impractical or add little value? If so, which ones?

  • I do not believe that locomotion scoring 10 cows/herd is beneficial to an individual farmer
  • I think the challenge for RT is that it is the baseline standard for UK produce and offers little, more to come in the way of clear additional benefit to the consumer. freedom food or Leaf Marque offer clearer benefits
  • In my opinion as a consumer I would like an inspector to spend time looking at the livestock
  • If every farmer in the UK bought red tractor (they don’t) that would account for .05% of sales
  • Questions that will always be answered ‘Yes’ by the farmer and no-one can prove otherwise are a waste of time in my view
  • I think the role some of the schemes play re public perception eg Lion Code with eggs are invaluable to the industry
  • Industry must support RT and it must shout about what we want to promote
  • Answering the same question, asked in different ways, for each scheme

Why do supermarkets sell Horse meat in burgers & Danish Pork with British Labels?

  • It’s their drive for margin & suppliers drive to deceive public with cheap alternatives as they pursue margin
  • Red tractor is a standard for production not a country of origin identity badge, is that right?
  • Assurance standards are all about supermarkets getting their mitts on non-assured produce for less money.
  • We need to maintain/enhance RT. Last thing we need is for purchasers to insist producers meet their own in house schemes
  • Supermarkets are a law unto themselves
  • If kids don’t know what/how fruit veg is called what do u expect the red tractor 2 mean! Let’s get in the real world
  • Both horse & non UK pork are issues further up the chain, nothing to do with farm assurance, but we get tarred!
  • I think the problems seen horse meat etc… can be rooted out but only with the technology and financial will to support it
  • Any bugger can slap Union Jack on any old rubbish to sell it. If patriotism is your selling point you’re pretty desperate.
  • Once produce has gone through the farm gate, it is beyond our control. Who audits further up the chain? BRC?

Why has RT failed to recognise it’s not a marketing tool & needs to offer cost efficient audits only?

  • Red Tractor Farm assurance has helped the beef industry recover from BSE. RT has helped to open up important overseas markets.
  • It would be a marketing tool if it added value which it doesn’t.
  • If it was worth marketing the supermarkets would be doing it. Why don’t they? Because the others stock RT as well.
  • I’m afraid red tractor means little to consumers, Union Jack does, they trust farmers, that’s what we should concentrate on
  • Many of the supermarkets do promote their Red Tractor credentials Very strong in the fresh pork = sausage sectors
  • Farm Assurance has been used as a means to open up the export markets now worth £139m for pork per annum

What are the main issues you think RT should be focused on? Standards, logo, marketing?

  • What is the point of Farm assurance when we are in a global marketplace!? Only one winner in this game ( not the farmer)
  • A good advert on tv, a good social media team, info QI codes on a trailer behind the red tractor on products, promote it, onwards
  • Standards/technical updates/reminders, help we can offer in assurance process, consumer work, consultation opportunities
  • Let’s get some of that whopping dairyco levy to you, zero hr contract young techy’s, big ad push until £ runs out

How would you like Red Tractor to communicate with you?

  • I think the brand could work the support “Sustainable British Farming” line more
  • An app would work well to enhance communication with farmers also collect data & give helpful reminders
  • Definitely by post. Emails would not be read & stuck in junk folder!
  • Rural broadband is a problem, full stop.
  • Standards on computer should be personalised to schemes on farm to avoid question duplication & audited in that same order.

Are processors & retailers doing enough to support & promote RT? What are best ways to raise profile?

  • Bought beef mince in Co-op today; I had to get up from PC now to look if it was Red Tractor. No purchase influence
  • New to industry; looking at neighbours farms, some RT, some not. Can’t tell what the difference is. Some doing more paperwork…
  • I spotted “Trust the Tractor” sign on way up M40 tonight. . Farmers and consumers need to trust it
  • Don’t butchers know where their meat comes from? Is there need for them to have RT label?
  • Instead of trying to promote the tractor as a concept why have a union flag and say ‘From British Farms’..?
  • We always want public to support us and buy British, do we as farmers do it?
  • Not sure what RT gives consumers. Just the legal standard with extra admin? Shouldn’t we aspire to a higher standard?
  • Playing devil’s advocate. If export market paying a good premium would UK farmers continue to focus on domestic market?

A single sentence please. Red Tractor means…..

  • Red tractor means you couldn’t afford a Fendt
  • Red tractor means the best food from the best Farmers in the World
  • Red Tractor means BEAUTIFUL BRITISH FOOD!
  • Red tractor means……you’ve ticked all the boxes!
  • Red Tractor means…. buy this and be duped into thinking that it is produced to a certain standard
  • Red tractor means…not very much to those in the know
  • Red Tractor means it’s more expensive? RT should mean born reared and killed with utmost welfare in UK (NO kosher/halal) IMO.

Simon Haley, Reading Agricultural Consultants, and Alan Spedding, 22 September 2013

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