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Harper Adams Forum: Red Tractor Assurance

Posted 15 October 2012

By Harper Adams Forum Reporter, Gregory Parkes

On Thursday October 11, Philippa Wiltshire, Beef and Lamb Sector Manager at Red Tractor Assurance, visited the Harper Adams Forum.

Ms Wiltshire began her presentation by explaining what the Red Tractor Assurance is - a not-for-profit organisation owned by the food chain it works to support. Stakeholders include the National Farmers Union (NFU), NFU Scotland, and the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).

She identified the four core activities; defining standards, ensuring conformance to the standards, identifying conforming products and communicating the benefits of Red Tractor assured products to consumers.

Red Tractor Assurance covers six commodities - cows and sheep, pigs, poultry, dairy, crops and fresh produce; and works throughout the supply chain from production to wholesale and food service.

78,000 farms throughout the UK now conform to Red Tractor standards, with 60,000 inspections taking place annually. Ms Wiltshire noted that the sheep industry is poorly covered by farm assurance due to less tractability in comparison to the cattle and pig industries.

She explained that a committee puts forward the standards which are then scrutinised by sector boards, technical advisory committees and members of the supply chain who participate in the scheme. Standards cover food safety and hygiene, animal welfare and environmental protection. They are available in a quick guide, which Ms Wiltshire explained can provide a good basic understanding of what is required, or scheme manual.

Red Tractor uses certified inspection bodies to assess and certify. The variety of bodies gives farmers the option to compare prices and have the option of multiple scheme assessment on the same day. Regardless of the inspection body chosen, all will check conformance to the same standards.

Ms Wiltshire talked about the Red Tractor logo, explaining that it is a symbol of whole supply chain assurance ensuring feed, farms, livestock transporters, markets, abattoirs and processing plants through which an animal utilises, or passes through, all conform to Red Tractor Assurance.

Logo use is licensed and there are three tiers to this: processor and packer who apply the logo to the product; wholesalers and distributors who sell the product as Red Tractor; and food service outlets which use Red Tractor products. The Union Jack part of the logo guarantees the product is British, while the upper circle ensures products have met technical assurance standards.

She concluded the presentation by likening the Red Tractor logo to the Kite Mark, stating that the logo is recognised by 55% of British shoppers, is used on £12 billion pounds worth of food worldwide and has 600 leading retailers now using the logo including Waitrose, Tesco, Co-operative, Asda, Sainsburys, John Lewis, YHA, Initial Catering and Warner Leisure Hotels. Brands now using the Logo include Cravendale, Countrylife, Silver Spoon and Carling. Ms Wiltshire pointed out that most Red Tractor advertising is done by such companies and brands that use the logo in their advertising.

Companies are continuing to commit to Red Tractor and benefit from increased customer confidence.

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