Claims from English beef and lamb producers that they have ‘world-leading’ standards look to be correct, according to a new AHDB report.

Published this week, the report compares Red Tractor with Australia’s Livestock Production Assurance and New Zealand’s Farm Assurance Programme.

In the study, which is the first of four AHDB has commissioned comparing regulation and assurance in different countries, 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.

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Red Tractor CEO Jim Moseley welcomed the report, and confirmation of the leading standards English farmers are meeting, 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.

"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 and 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 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.

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

The study was conducted by independent consultant Jonathan Birnie. AHDB will release the other three international benchmarking against Red Tractor standards later in the year, including European countries such as Ireland, and in key beef and lamb producing countries in the Americas.