red tractor beef mince

AIMS said Red Tractor’s certification standards were no longer aligned with its own focus on premiumisation

The future direction of the Red Tractor Assurance scheme is in the spotlight after a rift with meat processors prompted the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers to resign from its board.

In a statement released on Saturday (19 May), trade body AIMS said it had stepped down from the beef and lamb board of Red Tractor owner Assured Food Standards due to the lack of focus on eating quality and premiumisation in its certification regime.

“The decision of the AIMS board of directors to resign was taken after much heart-searching and with extreme reluctance,” said AIMS policy director Norman Bagley.

But while AIMS continued to fully support Red Tractor standards, the body - which represents small and medium-sized abattoirs - was looking for a certification scheme that allowed its members to add value to their product by giving a greater focus to eating quality aspirations, Bagley said.

Red Tractor had shown “no inclination to pursue this route”, he added.

“The fast-growing out of home eating proposition is where our members are finding most of the higher value opportunities and premium prices that are essential if a viable beef industry is to be sustained in future.”

AHDB’s quality standard mark (QSM) had made a “very good start at targeting this growth area” and was much more aligned with the aspirations of the AIMS membership, Bagley suggested.

It means AIMS members will no longer carry the Red Tractor logo. Those who still desire third-party certification will instead be able sign up to the body’s Assured Meat Processing Standard, which is underwritten by Red Tractor standards but wholly managed by AIMS.

Assured Food Standards declined to comment on the rift.

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It comes a month after Red Tractor announced plans for a multimillion pound marketing push to raise awareness of the scheme later this year, including a first TV ad, while the body has also urged the government to adopt its standard on a wider basis.

Responding to suggestions by environment secretary Michael Gove that the government was looking to create a “gold standard” assurance scheme, Red Tractor CEO Jim Mosely insisted there was “no need to reinvent the assurance wheel” after Brexit.

“Red Tractor is already the foundation stone of British agriculture, sitting independently as an authority in the UK and the world over,” Moseley said in Red Tractor’s submission to Defra’s Health and Harmony consultation on a future food and farming policy.

“As the largest and most comprehensive assurance scheme in the UK, there is no organisation better placed to deliver practical and robust performance metrics against the Health and Harmony vision,” he added.

However, Red Tractor has also drawn criticism from within the meat industry in recent months, particularly over the robustness of its traceability credentials, while the Efra Committee’s damning report into the 2 Sisters poultry scandal last autumn singled the scheme out for failing to notify the FSA of pre-existing problems at the poultry giant’s West Bromwich factory.

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