The UK’s National Farmers Union (NFU) has described Sainsbury’s decision to phase out its use of the Red Tractor logo as “disappointing”.

The retailer this morning (17 October) revealed plans to stop using the logo on its own-label meat, poultry, dairy and fresh produce lines as part of a gradual phase-out process.

The Red Tractor logo sets criteria for producers and retailers to meet on food safety, environmental protection, animal welfare and British origin.

However, NFU director of corporate affairs Tom Hind said the news was “extremely disappointing” to farmers who “take pride” in the Red Tractor logo.

“Products bearing the logo help reassure consumers that what they are buying has been independently inspected to accredited standards from farm to fork,” Hind said. “The Red Tractor now appears on GBP12bn worth of retail sales each year, making it the most widely used assurance logo within the UK market. It is the benchmark that many consumers actively look for when deciding what to buy.”

Sainsbury said the decision to remove the logo was down to consumers being “confused” by the number of logos being used on packs.

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Hind insisted, however, that 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 he said confusion is still evident.

“The Red Tractor is the only guarantee that a product labelled as British is British right through the chain.”

Hind added: “Following discussions with Sainsbury’s, we are reassured that the company will continue to use Red Tractor standards and supply chain validation process as the foundation for its ambitious UK sourcing plans.

“We are also pleased that the company has no plans to move away from Red Tractor assurance as the solid platform for any additional standards the company may seek to implement. To do so would add significant cost and bureaucracy and would be unacceptable to farmers who, through independent, sector-wide assurance schemes have sought to avoid duplication and unnecessary bureaucracy.”