Red Tractor is to make changes to its chicken assurance scheme from 1 November, following a consultation with its membership.
The key chicken scheme changes are as follows:
* Enrichment now needs to be provided and evenly placed in the shed by day 3 at the latest rather than day 7 as currently.
* Free range and enhanced welfare standards require only slower-growing breeds – the list of acceptable breeds has been updated in line with current research.
* To meet customer and consumer expectations, all broiler, poussin, and free range units must meet the minimum standard of windows at 3% of the floor area by October 2023.
* A heat stress policy must be demonstrably implemented on the farm. Heat stress continues to have a significant impact on bird mortality.
* All farms with workers must also have a written Health and Safety policy – this is a slight advance on the legal baseline which only applies to businesses with more than five employees. Given high fatality figures in agriculture Red Tractor believes it is essential to check are in place and communicated to workers.
* There are a number of changes for hatchery eggs to align with turkeys and ducks, including fumigating and sanitising eggs prior to setting, temperature and humidity-controlled storage rooms and records of checks, improved egg traceability and transport of eggs and chicks.
* Standards on Mycoplasma testing are being strengthened for breeder layers. Testing is in line with the Poultry Health Scheme requirements, testing records for Mycoplasma gallisepticum and Mycoplasma synoviae must be retained to ensure bird welfare and the prevention of disease.
* The turnaround times between flocks on farm must now be no less than 5 calendar days. This will ensure that farms have enough time between flocks to clean and disinfect houses between new flocks arriving.
Red Tractor’s CEO Jim Moseley said: “We set out to hear from all stakeholders and to engage as much of the farming community as possible, and I’m delighted by the amount of feedback that was generated by the review. This has been enormously helpful for informing the work to finalise the new version of the standards.
“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.
“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 that crucial balance that benefits the UK food supply chain.”
While changes to Red Tractor’s core standards mean members keep pace with mainstream market demands, there are some end-users who will require farmers and growers to demonstrate their business credentials on the important issues of worker welfare and sustainability.
In response to feedback during the consultation, Red Tractor will develop optional modules in these areas which bolt on to the core standards. Further information on how the modules will be developed and when they will be launched, will be available next year.
Jim Moseley added: “One of the key themes from the review was the appeal for Red Tractor to provide some flexibility within the schemes.
“This proposed approach will deliver the right standards across the supply chain which could deliver even greater market access for our farmer members with minimal impact on the audit burden. We will continue to work with our supply chain customers to explore how this could be delivered effectively.”