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Red Tractor comment on “The Truth About Your Chicken” programme

Red Tractor certified standards chicken

Twenty years ago, following a number of food scares and customer confidence was at all time low, Red Tractor was set up to help fix this and create a set of standards which could grow trust in British food.

We have since become the UK’s largest assurance scheme, working with tens of thousands of farmers and food businesses, with a logo that is now recognised by 78% of shoppers across the UK.

It is important to us that our standards are truly widespread and don’t just apply to a select range of premium products. Everyone deserves to have food that is traceable, safe, and farmed with care, and with our scale and reach that is what we able to provide. 

We are seriously disappointed that Dispatches did not raise these issues with us sooner, considering the filming of these issues took place almost nine months ago, in March 2021. This delay has prevented us from carrying out an immediate investigation in the public interest and taking early steps to protect consumers.

We rigorously uphold our standards and we have carried out inspections across thousands of farms and food businesses this year. Where issues arise we don’t hesitate to act, and we will take appropriate steps.


Chicken is comfortably the UK’s most popular meat choice – and the rise in consumption of this affordable source of protein shows no sign of slowing.

Red Tractor was founded over two decades ago with the principle that, regardless of household budget, everyone deserves to have food that is traceable, safe, and farmed with care. Our scale and reach means that is exactly what we able to provide.

It’s incredibly important to us that our standards are truly widespread, and don’t just apply to a select range of premium products.

We provide clear, comprehensive, and rigorous standards for UK farms to follow, and protecting animal health and welfare is a top priority.

We continue to raise the bar on UK poultry standards, driven by the latest research, best practice and consumer demand. With Red Tractor standards used as the buying specification for many major food businesses, we are in a unique position to bring about real change in this industry.

Aside from our core Certified Standards range we offer Free Range and Enhanced Welfare schemes for chicken, allowing shoppers and diners to make informed purchasing decisions.

All of Red Tractor chicken schemes have standards which go beyond legislation in many crucial areas.

Expert’s view: What sits behind the chicken on your plate? Guy Poppy explains

For example, assured birds grown to our core standards, have access to 10% more space than is required by European and UK law.

They also have access to pecking objects, bales and perches to encourage natural behaviour and must have natural light. All staff are required to hold professional qualifications in poultry farming and each farm must have a health plan to monitor the health of the birds and to manage disease.

Watch the video below as Emma finds out how chicken is produced to Red Tractor standards.

Dispatches’ delay worked against the public’s interest

We take any allegations relating to breaches of our standards incredibly seriously. There are a number of ways to report concerns around our standards not being met, including our confidential ‘Tell Us’ service. All reports are promptly and thoroughly investigated to corroborate any allegations.

We are deeply disappointed that Channel 4’s Dispatches chose not to raise the issues shown in their programme – “The Truth About Your Chicken” – with us until just before it aired, especially considering the undercover filming took place almost nine months ago, in March 2021.

Once the programme makers contacted us on 16 November, we requested that Dispatches shared their video evidence so that we could launch a full investigation. Frustratingly, we were met with steadfast refusal despite asking on several occasions.

This long delay prevented us from carrying out an immediate investigation. A fundamental function of our assurance scheme is that we act in the public interest by taking early steps to protect consumers.

Red Tractor Enhanced Welfare scheme chickens perching on a straw bale

Red Tractor Enhanced Welfare scheme chickens perching on a straw bale

We rigorously uphold our standards and we have carried out inspections across thousands of farms and food businesses this year. Where issues arise we don’t hesitate to act, and we take appropriate steps.

A combination of routine farm inspections and unannounced spot checks helps to promote year-round compliance with Red Tractor standards. Major or excessive non-conformances against our standards can result in a farm’s certification being suspended until corrective action has been demonstrated, or membership termination.

Our robust inspection and review regime works well and has the power to act if standards slip. In the 12 months to September 2021, we suspended 3,469 farms and 295 memberships were terminated for failure to meet our standards.

Setting the record straight

Unfortunately, many of the assertions made during the Dispatches programme were either misleading, inaccurate, or false. We’d like to set the record straight on a range of points.

How Red Tractor works

  • While it is true that Red Tractor has representation from right across the British food and farming supply chain in the creation and evolution of its standards, we are an independent voluntary assurance scheme operating as a not-for-profit company.
  • We develop standards based on science, evidence, best practice and legislation, covering animal welfare, food safety, traceability and environmental protection. Our website explains why we were established, how we work with around 46,000 assured farmers, and why our standards form the basis of buying and sourcing specifications for major supermarkets, household brands and restaurant chains.
  • We use independent, third-party inspectors called certification bodies to assess assured farms. They comply with the internationally recognised standards which make sure they work in a competent, consistent, and impartial way when certifying products, processes, and services. Essentially, this means we can’t “mark our own homework” when it comes to assessing whether a farm is meeting our standards – this is done totally independently of us. In short, we set the standards for farms to follow and let trained, unbiased professionals be the judges to make it fair for all involved.
  • While the individuals interviewed for Dispatches are entitled to their own opinion, we completely reject any suggestion that we fall short of our core purpose. Red Tractor standards are based firmly on data, relevant UK regulation and best practice. We regularly review and update our standards, drawing on industry-leading independent expertise.

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