A group of leading retailers and foodservice companies have published an open letter expressing support for Red Tractor. The assurance scheme is currently reviewing its standards and is holding an open consultation among farmers.
For poultry, the assurance scheme is proposing that across all poultry species, light intensity would be measured for each crop and recorded at bird-eye level to confirm that farms are meeting the standards. Lighting for ducks would be phased on and off over a 30-minute dawn-dusk period and there is a new recommendation for windows in all buildings which house ducks. It is proposed that only slower growing breeds can be used for free range chicken production to ensure that breeds are suitable for the method of production.
Red Tractor is seeking input from across the industry before finalising its proposition of what the schemes standards will be from November 2021.
There has been some criticism, particularly from within other sectors such as cereals and pigs, that the proposed new standards are too stringent.
The letter reads: “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.
“We remain committed to Red Tractor and it continues to be a key element of our sourcing policy. 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 is signed by the BRC, Aldi, Asda, Co-op, Greggs, Lidl, M&S, McDonald’s, Morrisons and Waitrose.