Producers and senior industry figures have rallied around the Red Tractor after a BBC Countryfile programme “unfairly” pitted the scheme against Freedom Food and organics.

A Countryfile investigation into food labelling last week, led by John Craven, compared the welfare standards of the Red Tractor scheme with those required under Freedom Food and organic quality.

The programme sparked concern among farmers and industry executives, who claimed Red Tractor’s mainstream credentials were being unfairly compared with premium, niche standards.

Christine Tacon, former MD of The Co-operative Farms, took to Twitter to argue that the exposé lacked context. “Countryfile most watched factual prog on TV,” she wrote. “Red Tractor portrayed as meeting legal minimum, no comparison to EU will follow up with BBC.”

Red Tractor exceeded EU and UK minimum legal standards in a number of areas, and often provided far higher standards than food that did not carry any quality labels at all or was imported, said NFU food chain head Lee Woodger.