Sainsbury’s has rejected calls from farmers to bring back the Red Tractor in the wake of the horse meat scandal - calling the logo a “red herring”.

Ever since the horse meat scandal broke, farming organisations have been campaigning heavily to promote the Red Tractor as a sign of high British standards and traceability, while politicians have called on consumers to look for the Red Tractor on packs.

But after Sainsbury’s ditched the Red Tractor logo from all its products in October - claiming consumers were confused by too many labels on packs - group commercial director Mike Coupe delivered a clear no on a backtrack.

Speaking as guest editor of The Grocer this week, he said: “The horse meat issue doesn’t change our position. It’s a red herring.”

Although Sainsbury’s lines no longer carry the logo, it was fully committed to high standards of traceability and to sourcing British products, Coupe said.

When Sainsbury’s ditched the Red Tractor logo last year, it stressed it would still use the underlying standards as the basis for its due diligence. But Sainsbury’s standards were higher than those of Red Tractor, Coupe claimed. “[The decision to drop the Red Tractor logo] is not a reflection of our British sourcing policies, and doesn’t mean we have reduced our commitment to British produce,” he added. “We very clearly label our products, but the reality is the Red Tractor means little or nothing to our customers.”

This weekend, meat levy bodies Eblex and Bpex are running joint press ads in to promote Red Tractor and the Quality Standard assurance scheme. A further ad in the Metro is to follow on Monday. The NFU is also running its own ads this weekend, encouraging consumers to “buy British”.