UK – Red Tractor, the UK’s largest and most inclusive food assurance scheme, has for the first time in its history allowed its 46000 members and the entire supply chain contribute towards its standards revision process, making it the biggest and most transparent consultation ever.

The proposals sought to engage as many people as possible across the Red Tractor supply chain to streamline standards, comply with legislation, meet changes in consumer demand, and provide clarity for both farmers and their assessors.

The consultation followed a rigorous three-staged process adhering to the gold standard recommendations of the British Standards Institute – committee, consultation and consensus.

Over 3,000 pieces of feedback were fed into the technical advisory committees and sectors boards for consensus, before being agreed by the main Red Tractor board.

This differentiated their approach and saw certain proposals dropped, while others were simplified and clarified.

Some new standards have been added because of legislation change, such as an amendment to vermin control standards to comply with food safety law, or industry commitments to improving animal welfare, including the wider dairy sector’s pledge to eliminate the routine euthanasia of calves by 2023.

“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 finalize the new version of the standards,” said Red Tractor’s CEO Jim Moseley.

He added that the company’s standards need to first meet the needs of consumers who expect high standards but shop keenly on price, and to provide farmers and the supply chain with manageable standards.

Getting that balance right then also satisfies the needs of food businesses and government.

Stuart Roberts, National Farmers Union (NFU) deputy president noted that it has never been more vital for British agriculture to be in tune with the public.

The deputy president pointed out that by following feedback from the NFU and farmer and grower licensees, Red Tractor has developed the right standards to progress the industry, while balancing the needs of farmers with the evolving demands of shoppers and the supply chain.

“Going forward I would like to see Red Tractor embrace the eight principles that NFU has set out for future standards development,“ he said.

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 the crucial balance that benefits the UK food supply chain.