Leading UK retailers urge farmers to engage with Red Tractor consultation

A number of leading UK retailers have come together to urge the farming industry to engage with the Red Tractor consultation.

Aldi, Asda, Co-op, Greggs, Lidl, M&S, McDonald’s, Morrisons and Waitrose have all put their names to a letter also signed and distributed by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) that appears to reflect concern among some retailers over farmer criticism of the proposed new standards.

The letter states: “As strong supporters of AFS we are following the debate around the review of the standards closely. We believe the consultation is important, regular reviews keep the standards relevant for the millions of our customers who look for AFS Red Tractor products in our stores.

“It is right all stakeholders have an opportunity to question the direction and speed of progress of the evolution of the standards. However, one thing which shouldn’t be questioned is the value of the scheme itself.

“Red Tractor is crucial in underpinning our brands; it gives our consumers the reassurance on production and environmental standards they demand.

“A co-ordinated, national scheme means farmers have access to the whole retail market, and increasingly the out of home market through a single scheme.

“We also believe it has helped farmers improve standards and productivity, benefiting them and ensuring they are meeting consumer demand here in the UK and be in the best position to take advantage of emerging markets.”

The retailers add that they remain committed to Red tractor and it continues to be a key element of their sourcing policies.

“We would encourage all farmers to engage constructively with the consultation to ensure it continues to grows and opens up new opportunities; recognising it is important for AFS to demonstrate the added value to your business, which we appreciate from our work with thousands of UK farmers,” the letter concludes.

Individual responses

Launched in early January, the consultation closes on March 5. Many of the proposed changes to the pork standards reflect the requirements of the Defra Pig Welfare Code. There are new requirements on animal health and welfare, husbandry, biosecurity and antibiotic usage, as the changes tie in with the Pig Health and Welfare Pathway currently being developed and the new sector antibiotic targets.

In some cases, the proposed changes come in the form of recommendations, including on space allowance and euthanasia, rather than new requirements.

  • The full list of proposed changes, supplementary documents on why Red Tractor has reached these decisions and on how to respond to the consultation can be found on the Red Tractor review hub HERE 
  • The full consultation can be accessed HERE
  • Red Tractor is also keen for scheme members to respond to the What Matters To You And Your Business survey.

Red Tractor has stressed that it wants to see feedback directly from individual scheme members.

Red Tractor pork board chair Stewart Houston said: “I know the main representative bodies will respond, but I would love to hear from every single pig farmer, both positive and negative comments. We will look hard at all of the comments that come in and reflect them in the final standards where we can.”

NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said: “We will issue our detailed response to the consultation and make it available to members for comment, but it is equally important for individual members to respond too.”



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About The Author

Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.