Meat

Background

Poultry farmers face farm assurance changes

One of the largest consultations involving British farmers has resulted in a draft of new changes for poultry producers that will come into force in November.

The assurance scheme changes are needed to equip agricultural producers for the future.

In the UK, standards evolve to meet the needs of consumers and the wider supply chain. Photo: ANP
In the UK, standards evolve to meet the needs of consumers and the wider supply chain. Photo: ANP

More than 46,000 Red Tractor farm assurance members, along with the entire food supply chain, were consulted on proposed revised standards in a bid to streamline standards, comply with legislation, meet changes in consumer demand and provide clarity for farmers and their assessors. Over 3,000 pieces of feedback were received, which led to certain proposals being dropped, and others being simplified or clarified.

Objectives

Jim Moseley, Red Tractor’s CEO, said the amount of feedback generated had been enormously helpful in finalising the new version of the standards: “Our standards need to achieve 2 key objectives – first to meet the needs of consumers who expect high standards but shop keenly on prices, and second, to provide farmers and the supply chain with manageable standards. Getting that balance right also satisfies the needs of food businesses and government.”

New changes for poultry

• Turnaround times between flocks on farm must now be no less than 5 calendar days. This will ensure that farmers have enough time between flocks to clean and disinfect houses between new flocks arriving.

• All farmers with workers must have a written Health and Safety Policy – this is a slight advance on the legal baseline which only applies to businesses with more than 5 employees. Given high fatality figures in agriculture, Red Tractor believes it is essential to have this in place.

• Hatchery eggs will have to align with turkeys and ducks, including fumigating and sanitising eggs prior to setting, temperature and humidity-controlled storage rooms and records of checks, improving eggs traceability and transport of eggs and chicks.

Upgraded standards

• Enrichment on all grower units needs to be provided and evenly placed in the shed by day 3 at the latest rather than the current day 7.

• All broiler, poussin and free-range units must meet the minimum standards of windows at 3% of the floor areas by October 2023.

• Acceptable breeds for birds reared to Red Tractor’s free-range and enhanced indoor welfare standards have been updated.

• A heat stress policy must be demonstrably implemented on the farm. Heat stress continues to have a significant impact on bird mortality.

• Standards are to be strengthened on Mycoplasma testing for breeder layers. Testing is in line with the Poultry Health Scheme requirements. Testing records for Mycoplasma gallisepticum and Mycoplasma synoviae must be retained to ensure bird welfare and the prevention of disease.

”...bolster the industry that feeds tha nation”

Richard Griffiths, British Poultry Council CE, has welcomed the changes: “Red Tractor’s food standards are actively applied across the British poultry meat sector, and recognised as the benchmark for quality both in the UK and worldwide. The British Poultry Council and its members are proud to have helped develop these updated standards, so consumers know that the food on their table is produced safely and to the highest welfare and environmental standards. Standards evolve to meet the needs of consumers and the wider supply chain, and we are confident that these will bolster the industry that feeds the nation their favourite meat.”

In tune with the public

Stuart Roberts, National Farmers Union deputy president, added: “It has never been more important for British agriculture to be in tune with the public. Following feedback from the NFU and farmer and grower licensees, Red Tractor has developed the right standards to progress our industry, while balancing the needs of farmers with the evolving demands of shoppers and the supply chain.”

RSPCA Assured increasing membership fee

The announcement came in the week that it was reported that RSPCA Assured is to double its base annual fee. Basic membership for pullet, laying hen and turkey producers is to rise from £142.80/year to £299/year, with additional amounts due depending on the number of birds kept. The changes come into force on 1 September with the organisation saying the increase was the first in 9 years.