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Limits placed on broiler turnaround times under new Red Tractor standards

a broiler chicken

RED TRACTOR has outlined the changes to its standards for poultry farmers under its latest revision, which will come into force from 1 November.

Turnarounds on broiler farms must be no less than five days, heat stress policies must be ‘demonstrably implemented’ on farms, and there are several changes to hatching standards under the fifth version of the scheme.

See also: RSPCA Assured to double laying hen farmer member fees

Red Tractor (RT) was established in 2000 to instil consumer confidence in British produce and today has 46,000 members.

The new standards come into force from 1 November, and full details will soon be sent out to scheme members.

Speaking at the launch of the new standards, Red Tractor’s Philippa Wiltshire said that farmers forced to shorten their turnaround because of factory failure would not be penalised under a force majeure derogation.

The new standards also confirm that broiler producers must install windows equivalent to 3% of the total floor area of a shed by October 2023.

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

And mycoplasma testing standards for broiler breeders will also be enhanced, according to chief executive Jim Moseley.


Consultation

He said in a statement that the new standards were a result of broad consultation with members.

“We set out to hear from all stakeholders and to engage as much of the farming community as possible, and I’m delighted by the amount of feedback that was generated by the review. 

“This has been enormously helpful for informing the work to finalise the new version of the standards.

Standards

“Our standards need to achieve two key objectives – first to meet the needs of consumers who expect high standards but shop keenly on price, and second to provide farmers and the supply chain with manageable standards. 

“Getting that balance right then also satisfies the needs of food businesses and government.

“With its structures of sector boards and technical committees, and through the comprehensive feedback of the consultation, Red Tractor is in a fortunate position to achieve that crucial balance that benefits the UK food supply chain.”

Key chicken scheme changes (Source, Red Tractor)

  • REVISED Updating our standards with best practice, on all grower unit’s, enrichment now needs to be provided and evenly placed in the shed by day three at the latest rather than day seven as currently.
  • REVISED The free-range and enhanced welfare standards require only slower-growing breeds – the list of acceptable breeds has been updated in line with current research. This means we can give a guarantee to consumers that only slower-growing breeds are used in our free-range standards as their growth rates are better suited to this production system.
  • REVISED To meet customer and consumer expectations, all broiler, poussin, and free-range units must meet the minimum standard of windows at 3% of the floor area by October 2023.
  • UPGRADED A heat stress policy must be demonstrably implemented on the farm. Heat stress continues to have a significant impact on bird mortality.
  • NEW All farms with workers must also have a written Health and Safety policy – this is a slight advance on the legal baseline, which only applies to businesses with more than five employees. Given high fatality figures in agriculture Red Tractor believes it is essential to check are in place and communicated to workers.
  • NEW There are a number of changes for hatchery eggs to align with turkeys and ducks, including fumigating and sanitising eggs prior to setting, temperature and humidity-controlled storage rooms and records of checks, improved egg traceability and transport of eggs and chicks.  
  • UPGRADED We are strengthening our standards 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.
  • NEW The turnaround times between flocks on-farm must now be no less than five calendar days. This will ensure that farms have enough time between flocks to clean and disinfect houses between new flocks arriving.

‘Benchmark for quality’

Richard Griffiths, British Poultry Council chief executive, added: “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.”