PORK HAS been in the news quite a bit of late. Red Tractor's CEO picks up the story, and explains why the assurance scheme has plenty still to offer.
David Burrows (DB): Good afternoon. You’ve recently teamed up with Jimmy Doherty on a new Give a Fork About Your Pork campaign. How’s it going?
David Clarke (DC): The campaign is only just getting into full swing so it’s too early to have any real evaluation. But it is a great thrill to work with Jimmy and to get his endorsement of the detailed standards and the rigid traceability necessary to produce Red Tractor pork.
DB: Indeed, meat has been in the news of late thanks to horsemeat and pork scandals. Has this helped to raise awareness of Red Tractor in a different way?
DC: It certainly has, and it was interesting to find the shadow agriculture minister recommending Red Tractor products early on the first morning of the story. But we need to be careful to understand that the Irish DNA testing has uncovered two quite distinct problems that the media has yet failed to separate.
DB: It has been a confusing story to follow...
DC: On the one hand there is evidence of significant levels of horsemeat in boxes of beef supplied from the east of Europe. Some boxed “beef” had 80% horse and one burger in the original samples had 29% and these gross levels of unexpected types of meat are totally unacceptable.
But some of the pork contamination appears to be at very low levels and might simply come from using the same equipment for different recipes without a total clean-down.
DB: But surely that’s not acceptable for those who don’t eat pork for religious reasons?
DC: A lot of work is now going on behind the scenes and the industry needs to better understand what levels of cross- contamination might give a positive result from these very sensitive tests and what might be considered an acceptable tolerance. Of course contamination with pork will have to be considered as a special case to ensure that products are acceptable to particular religious groups. But caterers themselves should remember that they might have similar cross-contamination risks in their own processes.
DB: Is the Red Tractor one way of caterers ensuring that the meat they buy is exactly what it claims to be? DC: As a technical certification scheme, Red Tractor plays a vital role at the business to business level. Buyers need to know about the standards of their suppliers to protect their own reputations and for legal due diligence. The system is used very widely by buyers across the supply chain.
DB: Are caterers as supportive of the Red Tractor scheme as retailers? DC: “Caterers” is a pretty broad constituency. We feel that Red Tractor fits best with the contract catering sector and the branded chains and that is where we focus our efforts. In the past few months we have made great progress with both Nando’s and KFC, both of whom are able to use Red Tractor positively in their own promotions and point-of-sale information.
DB: Are you looking to raise awareness across the foodservice sector?
DC: Without a doubt. We see more operators wanting to use the logo driven by customers wanting to know that their food has been produced to good standards and where it is from. For us, foodservice is a huge opportunity to raise consumer awareness of the Red Tractor logo and what it stands for.