Red Tractor sets sights on becoming ‘flagship’ for quality British food

(L-R) Neville-Rolfe on stage with Birnie and Moseley
Baroness Lucy Neville-Rolfe
01/03/2019 - 06:00
Red Tractor, the global food and farm assurance scheme, welcomed Cost Sector Catering at the launch event of its ‘International Benchmarking Study’ yesterday (28 February), pitching the organisation as the “flagship for quality British food at home and abroad.” Katie Imms writes.

Hosted by Baroness Lucy Neville-Rolfe at the House of Lords, she opened the event explaining the reasons behind the brand new, independent study, which was carried out by Dr Jonathan Birnie over the last six months.

The aim: to assess the breadth and depth of Red Tractor compared to prominent global schemes, and identity its strengths and development opportunities.

As such, Birnie and his team looked at multiple food and farm schemes across the world, including Bord Bia, RSPCA, Soil Association and Alliance, across the following sectors: chicken, pigs, beef, lamb, dairy, crops and produce.

All in all, the findings reaffirmed Red Tractor’s position as the highest performing complete scheme on an international basis, with Birnie commenting: “As a complete scheme Red Tractor is the highest performing on an international basis.

“While there are areas that could be developed, the existing scheme is comprehensive and a great foundation on which to build these additional standards.

"I have come away (from the research) with a great amount of confidence in Red Tractor, following my detailed comparable analysis of all food sectors globally.”

Key takeaways include:

  • Red Tractor is the strongest overall scheme in chicken; beef and lamb; dairy; and produce
  • It is ‘consistently world-leading’ in traceability and food safety
  • Red Tractor compares ‘well’ against all other schemes for food safety, and ‘very well’ with regards to staff training standards

However, the research did show that the organisation has some way to go in terms of worker welfare, with Birnie arguing that the little information available is because this simply is not a problem in the UK.

Speaking at the event, Red Tractor chief executive Jim Moseley, said: “(Red Tractor) standards are world-class, as is evidenced by this research, and increases our determination to be the flagship of British food and farming.

"Our vision and the work we are already implementing to develop standards in certain areas will place Red Tractor firmly at the centre of UK agriculture worldwide.

“However, our focus remains working hard to ensure that every standard is in place on every farm, every day.

“While specialist schemes may have higher standards on specific single issues, they do not offer the breadth across all aspects of farm production. Our ambition is to combine the current robust core of Red Tractor with additional standards on single issues to create a broader and stronger offer.”

With this in mind, Red Tractor said the findings support its planned development to cover specialist areas, such as higher welfare, environmental enhancement and organic production. Moseley went on to say that growing demand for these alternative production systems has largely been driven by British supermarkets, who are making specialist products more readily available to consumers.

This, in turn, has inspired Red Tractor’s aim to become a “one stop shop” for all types of farm production - offering complete assurance across all sectors.

But how does it plan to do this? The organisation's biggest focus will be on increasing consumer understanding of what Red Tractor is, which will in turn increase its value for customers, farmers and consumers alike.

Following the success of the organisation’s first advertising campaign last year, it has two more installments planned for 2019, which Moseley hopes will continue to drive awareness and interest in Red Tractor.

Closing the event with the RSCPA, Leaf, Morrison’s and restaurant Nando’s, pledging continued support, guests were reassured of the “willingness between all schemes to collaborate and make sure consumers know what (Red Tractor) stands for.”

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