FAQs | What We Do | Red Tractor Assured Food Standards

FAQ

The Red Tractor team of experts has put together a page of FAQ’s, covering all aspects of our business and what we stand for.
Red Tractor - The organisation
Red Tractor - The organisation
The Assured Food Standards company was established in the spring of 2000, and the Red Tractor label was launched the same year. At that time, the public were faced with a plethora of different food standards and labels. The Red Tractor label was set up to help harmonise the approach to food and drink standard setting and inspections throughout the supply chain and to give the public a mark of quality, safe, affordable food that they could recognise and trust.
Red Tractor has a major role to play in the future of good UK food and farming – by promoting recognition and the reputation of professionally produced food in the UK. 
Red Tractor Assurance is a small organisation, and its costs are met by assurance fees and licence payments from farmers and food companies. We are owned by the entire food industry but we operate independently on a not-for-profit basis. This enables us to benefit from a wide range of experience and expertise without giving any one organisation or link in the supply chain undue influence.
The interests represented on our board relate to each of the key links in the food chain, with representatives of the National Farmers' Unions, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, Dairy UK and the British Retail Consortium. The Board also includes independent experts – prominent academics and specialist scientists, plus professionals representing consumers, veterinary science and the environment.
The Red Tractor is a food assurance scheme which covers production standards developed by experts on:
Animal Welfare, Safety, Traceability and Environment Protection. 
We all want to know that the food we are buying is safe and produced to good standards, and this only comes from knowing where it comes from and that the all suppliers are inspected and certified.
We set the standards that are applied to the farms and to the different links in the food chain. We then carry out regular and robust inspections to ensure that producers, packers and other operators continually meet those standards.
Red Tractor - Standards
Red Tractor  - Standards
The Red Tractor label can only be used on food that has been produced, packed, stored and transported to Red Tractor standards.
The standards in all our farming sectors (beef, lamb, pork, chicken, dairy, fruit or vegetables) have been agreed by a panel of experts to ensure that the food is safe, traceable and that the animals are well treated.
To help, we’ve produced this handy Standards Chart.
All of the Red Tractor assurance schemes operate to the international standard ISO Guide 65, which is the European Standard EN45011. This guarantees that all our independent inspectors are properly trained and sufficiently experienced. In all there are over 450 inspectors and they conduct over 60,000 inspections a year.
The label includes a statement of origin in the flag. When you see the Union Jack you can be sure the food or drink has been born, grown, packed and transported all in the UK.
Food businesses must be approved and licensed by Red Tractor before they can use our label. We regularly check all packers and their supply chains to make sure that the label is only appearing on food that meets our standards.
There are currently over 78,000 Red Tractor farmers in the UK, and they sell their food to one of over 700 companies licensed to use the Red Tractor label on their packaging.
Food companies of all sizes, from a family-run salad grower to large dairy processors, use the mark.
Red Tractor takes animal welfare very seriously. The UK has some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world and the Red Tractor scheme has two impacts. 
 
  • First, it ensures that legal standards are complied with. Every Red Tractor standard is checked on every Red Tractor farm every year. Our farm visits are much more frequent than any official government inspections and are proven to show a higher level of compliance. 
  • Secondly, we require our farmers to meet a number of standards that are over and above the legislation.  The UK already has more stringent space requirements for chicken than the rest of Europe and our standards allow more space than the UK regulations.  Animal welfare scientists and the expert Farm Animal Welfare Committee have long recommended that we should ‘measure’ welfare outcomes.  This is not required by law but our pig scheme introduced these measures five years ago and several years before any of the so called ‘higher welfare’ schemes. These are just some examples.

    Read more on Animal Welfare here.
Red Tractor farmers use antibiotics responsibly – for the health and welfare of the animals in their care. 
 
Everyone is becoming aware that antibiotics are precious and must be used responsibly both in human medicine and veterinary practice.  But farm animals, just like people, can suffer from infectious diseases which may cause pain, distress and sometimes death.  When this happens the farmer and his veterinary advisor have difficult choices to make.  In many cases antibiotics are the best option.  The Red Tractor scheme encourages its members to use them responsibly, which means using as little as possible but as much as is necessary.  It is always a difficult balance between using antibiotics as little as possible but at the same time preventing animal suffering. 
 
UK agriculture is a leader in this responsible approach and the Red Tractor scheme helps to support that position.  The Red Tractor scheme does not simply issue guidance.  Farms are inspected regularly and robustly against the standards and those who do not conform to our standards cannot be part of the Red Tractor supply chain.  Red Tractor checks that guidelines for responsible use are followed.
 
Prevention is better than cure. The Red Tractor scheme has always known that good housing conditions, good nutrition, good hygiene and all around good husbandry can help to prevent infection taking hold in the first place.  All of these conditions have always been at the heart of Red Tractor standards.  
Consumers are often further confused by myths and rumours about drugs used in farm animals allegedly to make them grow more quickly.  Hormones, still used in some parts of the world, are not used by British farmers.  So called antibiotic “growth promoters” are also never used.  EU regulations banned these more than ten years ago but the Red Tractor scheme stopped their use several years before.  Red Tractor inspects every pig and poultry farm in the scheme every year so we can be confident that these standards are followed.
 
Red Tractor works with some of the best experts in the UK on this topic.  Red Tractor has been a member of RUMA – the alliance for Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture - for many years.  RUMA brings together experts from across the food and farming industry with veterinarians and provides sound advice on best practice.   
Red Tractor - Food
Red Tractor - Food
Red Tractor assured food is available from all the major supermarkets and a growing number of restaurants and pubs when eating out. Our food assurances our applied to a growing number of food and drink produced in the UK such as meat, poultry, dairy, fruit and vegetables and crop based products such as flour, breakfast cereals and even beer. 
Look for the logo on packs and on menus. There’s a handy link here to find your nearest stockist: Where to buy
The Red Tractor label can only be used on ingredients from farmers, growers and food processors that have been inspected and certified to our standards.
This could be a salad grower that has its own packing operation on the farm, or a meat business that receives fresh, farm-assured meat from its suppliers for cutting and packing. Packers must keep records of incoming raw materials to allow full traceability back to the farms of origin. 
1. The ‘Standard’ Red Tractor label. 
Products must contain at least 95% Red Tractor certified ingredients to be labelled as Red Tractor products. We permit up to 5% non-Red Tractor ingredients to allow for minor ingredients such as seasoning, herbs and spices etc.

2. The ‘Named Ingredient’ Red Tractor label.
We allow processors to use this logo to highlight that the main ingredient is produced to Red Tractor standards, for example the pork in a sausage or the potato in a potato salad.
A few conditions apply:
  • There must be a note on the label to make it clear that it refers to one ingredient and not the entire product.
  • The named ingredient must comprise at least 65% of the finished product.
  • All of the named ingredient must be assured (for example all the pork in the sausage must be from assured Red Tractor sources).
3. The ‘Made With’ Red Tractor label.
The ‘Made with’ logo is for use on multi ingredient foods such as ready meals and pies, where the characterising ingredient is assured but makes up less than 65% of the finished product.
A few conditions apply:
  • The ‘Made with’ claim must relate to the characterising ingredient.
  • In two protein products – both proteins (steak & kidney, chicken & ham) must be assured.
To receive Red Tractor certification ALL livestock must be stunned prior to slaughter. This must be carried out in-line with UK law. Red Tractor standards are developed using the guidelines of the Humane Slaughter Association (HSA).

The stun and its duration must be effective to render the animal unconscious, thus ensuring that the animal remains insensible to pain and DOES NOT regain consciousness. 

All meat certified Red Tractor has been stunned prior to slaughter. It is crucial that the stunning method is effective and appropriate to the species as per UK law and as required by our standards. The same process is used by other assurance schemes including RSPCA Assured.

Any additional claims relating to the religious nature of the product are outside the remit of Red Tractor. The Red Tractor logo cannot be applied to non-stunned halal or kosher meat.
For poultry meat and eggs there is a clear legal definition for 'Free Range' which means that the birds must have the option to leave the house and range free at any time.  There is no similar definition for dairy cows.  
The British climate is ideal for the growth of pasture for many months of the year but equally there are long periods in the winter when cows are housed indoors for their welfare.  This provides shelter from the weather and so they can be fed when the grass is not growing.  No cows are raised entirely outdoors in Britain.

The term 'free range' dairy has been coined unofficially by some producers but their definition means that the cows may spend as little as 180 days grazing at pasture.  Many would say that it is misleading.

Red Tractor dairy farms must meet high standards at all times to assure the welfare of the animals and the safety of the milk. We inspect all the farms regularly to ensure that the standards are maintained.
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