Can we rely on The Red Tractor scheme and external checks or should we get to know local producers?

Should we still put faith in the Red Tractor mark?

Should we still put faith in the Red Tractor mark?

The Red Tractor logo has become a familiar site on our supermarket shelves. But have you asked yourself what it actually stands for? There might be a few ideas but if you have ever wondered, this is the definition and I am quoting from the red tractor website:

The Red Tractor logo confirms that our independent assessors have checked food or drink meets our comprehensive standards, from farms to fork.’

This is a pretty broad claim and the organisation does go on to list a number of standards on the website. I was always under the impression that the Red Tractor guaranteed a level of quality and was rather surprised to see some adverse publicity that has hit the branding and credibility of this organisation

Under cover activists have filmed some pretty shocking examples of poor husbandry when it comes to rearing pigs. This is upsetting, for the pigs primarily of course, but also to think that this logo has little meaning. If the farm in question can sport the Red Tractor mark what does that actually mean?

Consider standard 3 says:

Red Tractor farmers care about their animals.

We visit every farm and only skilled people are allowed to look after livestock. Our standards mean animals have suitable space, and the right food and water to ensure they are healthy. Our vets only prescribe medicines when animals are ill.”

This is exactly what you would expect. Therefore undercover films that show piglets being dashed against the wall to kill them, birthing sows in tiny pens, pigs having insufficient space to lie down unless they lie one on top of the other and other cruel practices have just emerged.

Did you know farmers pay to join The Red Tractor scheme?

You might be wondering how this is allowed to happen. But when you realise farmers pay to join the scheme and most visits are scheduled it’s easy to fake your performance. In fact, only 1 in 1000 inspections happens unannounced. Unfortunately profit and money are almost always behind everything. Would any of us be prepared to pay more for our food and finance such a scheme? Probably not.

Many might argue that it’s easy to make ethical decisions when budgets are not the main criteria

It seems you need to have sufficient money to make ethical food choices; organic and welfare foods are expensive. However, perhaps we all need to think again about what we consume. Our reliance on cheap processed meat in burgers, chicken nuggets etc. is having a massive impact. This farm highlighted in these films may well be just one that we have discovered. If we all ate less meat perhaps that would help the situation, perhaps not. What do you think about changing diets and eating less meat?

The undercover film makers have a political agenda

The undercover film makers,  are all members of anti meat, pro plant material lobby. The vegan food producers, Viva have an agenda of course. Yet it’s our insatiable demand for cheap meat that puts the farming industry under pressure to produce, produce and produce some more. Obviously Viva want us to turn to other types of food including their range of sweet potato burgers etc.

Are we being hypocritical regarding our relationship to food?

We demand high standards but don’t seem happy to pay the little bit extra it costs to keep animals within the highest welfare standards. How many of us actually check where our bacon is produced for example and how it is reared?

Doncaster is now a Sustainable Food City and perhaps if we shopped more locally and got to know the producers of our food we would not have to rely on external logos that may not be delivering what we expect. The Red Tractor scheme has let the animals and the consumer down. Can we still trust it? What do you think? We’d love to hear your views about what we write and the topics we choose. Do check out the Good Food Doncaster blog.

Do you know what these logos stand for for example?

Good Food Doncaster asks if we are prepared to pay extra for higher welfare standardsLEAFSoil Association OragnicQuality Standard

Where do we buy meat? Do we know much about it?

Is it time we shopped locally? Should we demand even more from our supermarkets? Should we eat less meat and pay more for the meat we do consume? Should we be developing stronger ties with local food producers? If you have views about anything food related please let us know. We are always looking for new writers to contribute to the website.