In an effort to maintain the trust of consumers and promote UK farming and food standards, it is introducing unannounced inspections for members that “require more scrutiny”.
Although Red Tractor currently oversees around 60,000 inspections across 46,000 farms on an annual basis, chief executive Jim Moseley expected there to be more visits conducted to support those that were not complying.
“The new regime will be tougher for those that are failing to comply with our regulations,” he said. “There will be more visits made, as well as unannounced audits.”
Moseley did say that continued non-compliance would lead to expulsion from Red Tractor. To help mitigate the expense and number of visits overall, he said that Red Tractor was investigating the use of technology in inspections.
“If we had the data that farms are inputting on a real-time basis, we would have access to that in advance of an inspection and wouldn’t need to see it during a visit, which would cut time on-site.
‘Reduce the physical burden of inspections’
“We feel there’s a real opportunity to create a data portal that would reduce the physical burden of inspections.”
The new regime is expected to begin in November 2018, with a full rollout planned for 2019.
The strengthening of Red Tractor standards was welcomed by the retail industry.
Andrew Thornber, Morrisons Market Street and manufacturing trading director, said: “Red Tractor’s new measures – including unannounced visits – should give customers increased confidence about the standard of animal husbandry on British farms and are therefore to be welcomed.
“As British farming’s single biggest supermarket customer, we buy directly from farmers we know and trust and it is helpful to have this additional assurance.”
Meanwhile, an Aldi spokesperson said: “We are pleased to see Red Tractor has taken the necessary steps to improve the robustness of their scheme, and we are supportive of their measures to further improve traceability and transparency in the food supply chain.
“The Red Tractor logo is easily recognisable for all UK consumers and is included as a mark of provenance and quality on all of our core fresh meat products.”
‘Bolster consumer trust’
Matt Hood, Co-op trading director, added: “We welcome Red Tractor’s announcement and applaud any measures which aim to bolster consumer trust over the way our food is produced.
“Animal welfare, traceability, food safety and concerns over the environment are key issues for Co-op members and customers and we remain committed to sourcing Red Tractor-certified produce for sale across our 2,500 stores.
“As the first retailer to sell 100% fresh British own-brand meat, our commitment towards British farmers and growers remains steadfast, and we look forward to working with Red Tractor as it extends its assurance programme into 2019 and beyond, so that customers can buy home-grown produce with absolute confidence.”
Red Tractor also announced that it was in the early stages of introducing ‘modular standards’ to sit alongside its core offering. These new standards are designed to cover areas such as organic, environmentally-sustainable production or enriched animal welfare.
Red Tractor is currently in consultation with other bodies that offer similar assurance schemes to see if there are collaboration opportunities.
Earmarked for a 2019 launch, Moseley said the added modules could help Red Tractor become a “one-stop shop” for farming assurance.
First-ever TV campaign
Red Tractor has unveiled its first-ever TV advertising campaign. Set to run on national TV from 12 September for five weeks, the campaign communicates to shoppers the meaning behind the Red Tractor logo.
There will also be social media and print activity as part of the £1.5m marketing campaign, which was funded through the increase in licensee fees.
Red Tractor chief executive Jim Moseley said: “We know consumers are twice as likely to look for Red Tractor products if they know more about what it stands for, which is why it is vital we invest in large-scale communications to tell them what we do.”