Red Tractor funds must push British pigs and poultry

There is desperate need to change the funding model for Assured Food Standards to ensure resources are directed into marketing of British pig and poultry products.

This was one of the conclusions made during the headline debate at this year’s British Pig and Poultry Fair, Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire, which asked how the industry could get consumers to buy more British.

The debate centred around a series of films looking at consumers’ pre-conceived ideas on pig and poultry production, what influenced their shopping decisions and how they reacted to visits to a broiler and intensive pig unit.

And targeted marketing of the Red Tractor brand was one of the main areas identified as a key area for improvement.

Worryingly, the majority of the 14 consumers surveyed had little understanding of the Red Tractor, despite the fact the logo has been around for 10 years.

However, after visiting pig and poultry farms and being educated on the high standards of welfare, a number of the shoppers said they would now look for the Red Tractor logo.

One said she “would definitely not worry so much about only having free-range chicken, as long as it had the Red Tractor mark on with the Union Flag”.

Another said she would be more discerning: “I now understand the Red Tractor sign better and know to look for the flag, so therefore I know everything of that product will be British.”

There is a great need to improve consumer awareness, said panel member Richard Lowe of AHDB.

“Farmers are making the effort to do a good job and produce this product, yet the consumer does not know what it means.”

But this was largely due to a lack of investment in a marketing strategy, rather than failure of marketing itself, he said.

“The trouble is Assured Food Standards does not create enough money for marketing – the question is, how can we create sufficient funds to do so?”

In response, Mr Lowe suggested processors could pay a small amount more on the pack.

Andrew Nicholson from The Co-op agreed with the proposal, suggesting a 0.1-0.2p fee per pack would be a small increase that could potentially make a huge difference to consumer awareness and thus choice.

Although poultry producer Jonty Hay believed on instinct that the producer should not have to pay any more for this scheme, he understood “everyone had a part to play” and was surprised by the lack of marketing budget for the Red Tractor.

“With the Red Tractor logo on £10 billion worth of products, we have critical mass in the product, but no critical mass income. I believe if we get the message out about what is behind the Red Tractor, it will take off rapidly and go supersonic.”

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