The retailer claims it will continue to source British products that meet Red Tractor standards and use the assurance schemes standards as the “foundation of [its] due diligence”, but the labels will be removed from packs.
A spokesman for Sainsbury’s said: “The forthcoming EU changes to food labelling regulations have led us to review and prioritise the information we put on our packaging. Customers have told us that too many logos on-pack can be confusing, so whilst we will continue to adhere to, and exceed, the Red Tractor standard, we will no longer be using their logo.
“We’re proud of Sainsbury’s heritage of supporting British farming, working with over 4,500 farmers and growers across the UK, clearly labelling British products on our packaging. We remain committed to investing in British farmers and growers, with our ambition to double the amount of British food we sell by the year 2020.”
However, the decision has sparked anger and consternation among producers and some say the lack of communication between the retailer and its suppliers on the issue was surprising.
Richard Longthorp, chairman of the National Pig Association, said: “This is bitterly disappointing news for the UK pig industry. We have set great store by, and invested heavily in, the Red Tractor since we moved from the Quality Standard Mark a few years ago. We fully intend to continue to support Red Tractor and indeed it forms an integral part of our current ‘Save Our Bacon’ campaign – a campaign in which we are urging customers to insist on Red Tractor pork, bacon, ham and sausage when they make their purchases, which is their guarantee that what they are buying is British.
“I suspect the army of pig industry volunteers who carry out the regular ‘Pork Watch’ survey of supermarkets will be paying particularly close attention to the Sainsbury’s offer over the coming months.”
A spokesman for Red Tractor said they were disappointed at the news: “We know that our 79,000 assured farmers will be dismayed. They work hard to produce affordable food using good standards of food safety, animal health & welfare and environmental protection.
“A recent survey showed that more than 80% of our farmer members believe the Red Tractor logo is the right tool to communicate to consumers both the good standards that they follow and the origin of the food. This will no longer be available to Sainsbury’s consumers.
“Over the 12 or so years that we have been working with farmers and consumers, our research has informed us that to the consumer Red Tractor means ‘great farming, great food’ with nearly 15 million UK shoppers recognising the logo. Sainsbury’s shoppers will no longer have this independent mark of assurance on-pack.”
NFU director of corporate affairs Tom Hind said: “This is extremely disappointing news to farmers who take pride in the Red Tractor logo.
“It is essential to avoid confusion amongst consumers over the origin of products, not just on fresh meat, but also dairy, processed meat products and fresh produce, where confusion is still evident. The Red Tractor is the only guarantee that a product labelled as British is British right through the chain.”