THE launching of three new colour-coded labels this year by the UK’s largest food and farming scheme to help consumers easily select specific production standards has been hailed as “exciting” by a Cumbrian farmer.

The new enhanced welfare marque for chicken is the first of a trio of beefed-up standards to be unveiled this year by Red Tractor.

West Cumbrian beef and sheep farmer, and chairman of Red Tractor, Alistair Mackintosh said:”We are giving shoppers who are looking to buy British produce grown and reared to recognised production methods more choice with the added confidence that it’s been checked every step of the way from farm to pack.”

“We are genuinely offering a better packaged for the consumer at the time the Government is looking at the potential for cheap imports produced to lower standards,” added Mr Mackintosh, who is also the National Farmers Union Cumbrian Council Delegate.

The scheme will now enable farmers to sell their products through Red Tractor, whichever farming method they use.

The new standards retain the union flag and the scheme’s tractor logo, but replaces the words ‘certified standards’ with the farming method used.

Each new marque will have its own colour, with the enhanced welfare for chicken standard using purple. A new free-range chicken marque soft-launched during the spring uses orange, while a planned organic standard will use green. Red Tractor said it would also continue to examine which other sectors “would benefit from this modular approach” to enhanced standards.

“I am quite excited about this,” said Mr Mackintosh. “The new ranges will offer a one-stop solution for people looking for specific production methods for food that is also grown or reared to safe, traceable, high animal welfare and environmental standards.”

At present, says Red Tractor, the public are faced with a host of logos and claims on menus and on pack, which can create duplication and cause confusion.

But research shows that consumers now demand a greater choice and for Red Tractor to clearly differentiate how some of the product carrying its label is produced.

Research conducted by the food assurance scheme has helped develop the labelling system for the additional standards modules.

Each new marque will have its own colour. For chicken, it will be orange for free range, purple for enhanced welfare and green for organic.

Red Tractor CEO Jim Moseley said the new modular approach is supported by a clear and simple process, which could strip out some of the complexity from labels on pack and menus,” he said.

The new ranges will begin to roll out across food service and retail over the next 12 months, Red Tractor said.

The enhanced welfare for chicken is the first module to roll out and is already available in a limited number of retail outlets.

“As with the core offering, accredited members will be required to meet robust specifications for the new ranges, which will be checked by independent assessors every step of the food’s journey from farm to pack,” said Mr Mackintosh.

Tracey Jones, Director of Food Business at Compassion in World Farming said: “We are delighted with the introduction of the Red Tractor Enhanced Welfare module and marque for indoor chicken which meets the requirements of the Better Chicken Commitment.

“It is an important enabler for companies who want to source to this standard and the marque provides a clear visual identity which, along with the free range and organic labels, allows consumers to understand how their chicken was produced and make informed choices.”

Red Tractor said it will continue to examine which sectors would benefit from this modular approach.