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NPA welcomes 'proportionate' approach taken in new Red Tractor standards

20th Jul 2021 / By Alistair Driver

The new Red Tractor pig standards, announced today, include a raft of new requirements, including training on the handling of pigs, enhanced data collection and on the use of veterinary medicines.

Red Tractor new logoThe NPA helped to shape Version 5 of the pig standards as they developed. Chief executive Zoe Davies said the changes had, on the whole, found the balance between reflecting new legal requirements facing producers and introducing elements which were considered important to demonstrate the integrity of the sector, whilst at the same time ensuring any new standards were evidence based and proven to be of benefit.

The headline changes to the pork standards which will apply from November 1 include:


  • All units must put measures in place to minimise the risk of tail biting and avoid the need for tail docking. This includes an annual risk assessment on all units and an action plan on farms rearing docked pigs. Anyone carrying out docking needs to have evidence to support the continued need, including a detailed quarterly veterinary review. Monitoring health and performance is key to ensuring oversight of pig health and welfare.
  • Anyone involved with the care of pigs must now complete online pig welfare training in key areas including best practice around moving and handling pigs to ensure consistent training so that all pigs are always treated compassionately.
  • At least one person on every farm must undertake training in the responsible use of medicines. Where a farm is identified as persistently using high amounts of antibiotics, they must now develop and implement an action plan with their vet to reduce antibiotic use.
  • When there is an outbreak of disease, it can be useful if nearby farms are made aware so they can tighten their biosecurity. To facilitate this, members must sign up to the Significant Diseases Charter and report disease outbreaks.
  • All farms with workers must have a written Health and Safety policy – this is a slight advance on the legal baseline which only applies to businesses with more than five employees. Given high fatality figures in the industry Red Tractor believes it is essential to check policies are in place and communicated to workers.


  • The enrichment standard has been changed, in line with Defra’s Code of Practice, to require specific combinations of enrichment materials and objects, to ensure this important behavioural need of pigs is met.


  • Stock people need to be robustly trained on pig euthanasia to ensure best practice is maintained. Initial euthanasia training must now be carried out by a vet or via a Humane Slaughter Association course. Where a mechanical device is used for piglet euthanasia, we have aligned our requirements with the Humane Slaughter Association’s guidance to ensure effectiveness.


Some of the proposals consulted on were heavily contested by the NPA and individual producers and were not adopted into v5 of the standards. These include:

  • Recommendation for increased space allowances for growing pigs
  • Recommendation for increased trough space for restrict-fed pigs
  • Requirement that sows must enter farrowing crates at least 3 days before farrowing
  • Requirement that access to pigs by cats is prevented
  • Requirement for breeding units to have evidence from finishing units of tail bite issues
  • Requirement that pigs are not transported on the same vehicle as other species
  • Maximum journey time of 18 hours.

Genuine industry consultation

New farm standards covering all six Red Tractor categories will come into effect from November 1, with the complete standards for each sector being made available to members in August.

The changes have been developed over 12 months, with input from farming organisations, farmers, vets, processors and retailers, and a wider industry consultation that ran from January to March.

Over 3,000 pieces of feedback were fed into the various technical advisory committees (TACs) and sector boards for consensus, before being agreed by the main Red Tractor board.

The NPA ensured that members were able to feed their views directly to them and via a well attended webinar where they could put questions to Red Tractor.

Zoe is a member of the RT Pig Technical Advisory Committee and NPA vice-chair and Yorkshire producer Phil Stephenson represents NPA on the RT Pig Board and, having gathered comprehensive feedback from members, ensured that their views were fed into the process at every opportunity.

Zoe said: “This was a genuine industry consultation where Red Tractor listened and took on feedback, on the whole, we are pleased with the outcome.

In the Red Tractor press statement, Zoe said: “This is a great opportunity for UK pig farmers to demonstrate how committed they are to continually improving standards on farm, not only building on our high welfare standards but increasing confidence in our supply chain and retaining customer support for UK pork.”

Red Tractor’s CEO Jim Moseley said: “Our standards need to achieve two key objectives – first to meet the needs of consumers who expect high standards but shop keenly on price, and second to provide farmers and the supply chain with manageable standards. Getting that balance right then also satisfies the needs of food businesses and government.”