A new independent, international benchmarking study of global farm assurance schemes, has found that the Red Tractor farm and food assurance scheme offers world-leading standards.

The International Benchmarking Study was announced at an event hosted by Baroness Lucy Neville-Rolfe at the House of Lords on Thursday 28th February. The study looked at prominent global schemes – some of which compete with the UK – and the results show the breadth and depth of Red Tractor especially in areas such as traceability and food safety. In a statement the organisation say that the findings strengthen Red Tractor’s position as the scheme which can act as the flagship for quality British food both at home and abroad.

The research was conducted over the past six months by independent Nuffield Scholar Dr. Jonathan Birnie. Dr Birnie holds a PhD from the Agricultural Research Institute of Northern Ireland (now AFBI) & Queens University. He has worked for Sainsbury’s and Dunbia.

Dr Birnie commented: “As a complete scheme Red Tractor is the highest performing on an international basis. While there are areas that could be developed, the existing scheme is comprehensive and a great foundation on which to build these additional standards. I have come away with a great amount of confidence in Red Tractor following my detailed comparable analysis of all food sectors globally.”

Red Tractor CEO, Jim Moseley added: “Our standards are world-class as is evidenced by this research and increases our determination to be the flagship of British food and farming. Our vision and the work we are already implementing to develop standards in certain areas will place Red Tractor firmly at the centre of UK agriculture worldwide. However, our focus remains working hard to ensure that every standard is in place on every farm, every day.”

Nuffield Scholar Dr. Jonathan Birnie.

The findings support Red Tractor’s planned development to cover specialist areas such as higher welfare, environmental enhancement and organic production. Mr Moseley added: “While specialist schemes may have higher standards on specific single issues they do not offer the breadth across all aspects of farm production.

“Our ambition is to combine the current robust core of Red Tractor with additional standards on single issues to create a broader and stronger offer.”

Some top-line findings include:

• Red Tractor was found to be consistently world-leading in traceability and food safety.

• In food safety Red Tractor performs well against all other schemes. Especially noted is the provision of specific and detailed standards.

• Red Tractor performed very well in terms of staff training standards. However, Worker Welfare or the Ethical Treatment of agricultural workers is not well covered by nearly all farm assurance schemes across the globe and provision of significant development is required across all schemes including Red Tractor.

• In Beef & Lamb, Red Tractor was found to be the strongest overall scheme in terms of breadth and depth. Red Tractor husbandry standards are above all broad coverage schemes but behind the high welfare schemes.

• In Dairy, Red Tractor is again the strongest overall scheme in terms of breadth and depth including traceability, biosecurity, record keeping and milk production standards (for example, hygiene of the milking parlour and handling of milk are all very good).

• In Produce, Red Tractor & GLOBALG.A.P are the strongest overall schemes by a considerable margin. In Crops, Red Tractor has particular strengths in areas such as crop storage and water management. Opportunities to develop the standards in areas such as soil management and control of manure and fertilisers were noted.

• In Pigs, Red Tractor was found to be strong in antibiotic usage monitoring, however there are opportunities for Red Tractor to develop its welfare standards in areas that have been identified, for example, space and enrichment.

• In broiler chickens new enrichment standards are very robust and almost in line with the RSPCA (bales, perches and pecking objects).