POULTRY producers may face unannounced Red Tractor inspections as the assurance scheme seeks to bolster its reputation following a series of animal rights exposés.

Last year The Times reported that only one in 1,000 farms certified by the scheme received an unannounced inspection in 2017. It followed the release of undercover footage which purported to show animal abuse on a pig farm.

In response, Red Tractor accepted the need to introduce more unannounced inspections, and by October last year, all Red Tractor pig farms moved to a “risk-based” scheme where poorer-performing farms would be subject to unannounced inspections.

According to risk

From 1 April poultry producers signed up to the scheme will also move to the new regime. It involves a system not revealed by Red Tractor to producers that balances non-conformances weighted “according to reputational risk”.

In principle, this means a non-conformance related to animal welfare would be considered more serious than one regarding proper record-keeping – but Red Tractor insisted that all standards remained “important and must be complied with at all times”.

Red Tractor also announced a confidential phoneline in March that can be used by anybody to report anyone they feel is failing to meet the scheme’s standards. The “Farmed With Care” line will go live in June and be available 24 hours a day, 365 days’ a year.