Red Tractor has said claims from English beef and lamb producers that they have “world-leading standards” look to be correct, according to a new report from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).

The report is the first of four that will be evidencing current competitive English farmgate production standards for the beef and lamb sector from AHDB.

The report compares Red Tractor with Australia’s Livestock Production Assurance and New Zealand’s Farm Assurance Programme.

Red Tractor’s standards were found to be higher in all areas except biosecurity and disease control.

However, this raises concerns that lower farm assurance standards in Australia and New Zealand, two of the UK’s most recent trading partners, could be giving them an unfair commercial advantage, Red Tractor said.

Red Tractor chief executive Jim Moseley welcomed the report but said the findings made it even more important to differentiate on quality and provenance.

“The good news is that Red Tractor’s own independent research consistently finds that Red Tractor assured beef and lamb is the first choice for UK consumers,” he said.

“Red Tractor is also a key reason why the majority of UK supermarkets pursue ‘British first’ sourcing strategies in their fresh meat ranges.

“This is demonstrated by the widespread use of Red Tractor, Scotch Beef & Lamb, and Farm Assured Welsh Livestock labelling. Some supermarkets go further with a ‘British only’ strategy, including the Cooperative and Morrisons.

“Certainly, the report gives UK processors a stronger position from which to compete with New Zealand and Australian product on the retail market in the UK and in those export markets, where production standards are the key buying criteria.”

AHDB report

AHDB data suggests that since the beginning of 2022 there has been a consistent and positive price differential between the UK’s deadweight farmgate pricing compared with New Zealand and Australia.

Currently that differential is at a peak with UK lamb almost three times higher than both countries and UK beef at just over 50% more than Australia’s.

“However, this report does raise important points that we need to take on board so we can ensure we are delivering value and opportunities back to British farmers for their higher standards,” Moseley said.

“What we have to do is make sure that when there’s British supply, retailers are stocking it and shoppers are buying it.”

The independent AHDB reports aim to help inform the future direction of the industry by comparing the voluntary assurance standards and regulatory requirements of the English beef and lamb sector with other key suppliers from around the world.

AHDB divisional director for engagement, Will Jackson, said: “This report delivers a clear comparison of the different standards and regulatory requirements with two key competitors for English beef and lamb.

“By the end of 2024 we will have a series of reports evidencing where we stand compared to other important suppliers around the globe.

“Together, these four reports will deliver clear evidence to support crucial discussions for the beef and lamb sector, including the impact of standards on farmgate returns, the involvement of the wider supply chain in conversations about future standards, and maximising value from higher standards when it comes to market access or higher prices.”

Jackson said the output of this work will also be essential in the wider industry assessment of the challenges ahead and provide important evidence for others, such as the recently announced independent Farm Assurance Review.

“It will also be central in helping AHDB to underpin our messaging in key areas, such as marketing and exports.

“The importance of this work is based on the fact that all the investigations are independently reviewed by industry experts to ensure accuracy and eliminate bias.”