Logo fatigue" is a phrase that sums up how many chefs and caterers feel about food badges. The Red Tractor, Freedom Food, Leaf and Organic marks are the most common on food products in supermarkets and becoming more prevalent in food service. But what do they really mean, and how can they help your business?
Most caterers and chefs feel they should be "doing good things with food" driven by consumer and client expectations relating to farm-assured, higher animal welfare standards and provenance of local or regional food - not forgetting the drive for improved food safety, sustainability criteria and higher environmental standards.
But if you ask caterers and chefs, there are wildly different opinions about what counts as sustainable.
For farmers, it means a method of food production that is socially, economically and environmentally sustainable - with all three components intrinsically linked. Championing methods of production that address these needs will show your customers you understand and are doing something about these issues.
"Farm-assured" is another well-used description, but what does it mean? It is an independent verification of good farm practices, often above the standards that are required legally, relating to food safety, environmental protection and animal welfare. It's a reassurance of safe food and good farming practices and forms the basis for most other quality marks.
Lorna HegenbarthNFU food chain firstname.lastname@example.org
Red Tractor is administered by Assured Food Standards, an independent not-for-profit scheme. It guarantees the product is farm-assured and that each stage of the supply chain after the farm gate is also assured. It covers all aspects, from the feed that the farmer uses to the abattoir, the processor, the wholesaler and the caterer.
It means that the food is traceable, and when the logo is displayed with the Union Jack flag it demonstrates 100% British origin. This has encouraged an increasing number of food service operators to become licensed to use and display the Red Tractor.
This assurance scheme has been selected to form the benchmark food-procurement standard for the Olympic Games.
Freedom Food is the only farm-assurance scheme dedicated to farm animal welfare. The scheme is backed by the RSPCA and is non-profit-making and independent from the food and farming industries.
It certifies livestock producers, hauliers and abattoirs against a set of RSPCA welfare standards for all the main species farmed for food and covers free-range and some indoor systems - wherever the welfare standards can be met.
Freedom Food can come from any producer in Europe that meets the required standards. However, the vast majority of producers are British. Freedom Food has a growing presence in food service as well as with retailers.
LEAF Marque standards are additional to, and sit above, the environmental aspects of Red Tractor assurance. Where Freedom Food could be classed as Red Tractor standards plus higher animal welfare, the Leaf Marque could be classed as Red Tractor standards plus higher environmental considerations.
Leaf is involved with food service, promoting the LEAF Marque to caterers and working in schools. LEAF members go into schools and arrange school visits to farms.
Again, LEAF Marque food can come from any producer in any country that meets the required standards. However, the majority of producers are British.
Organic food is that from a low-input production system, which typically relies on biologically active soils, avoids the use of pesticides and prohibits GM ingredients. All producers and processors are subject to regulation and must display the EU organic logo.
To use the term organic, products must go through stringent inspections by licensed certification bodies - for example, the Soil Association and Organic Farmers & Growers. Organic food labels must also display who certified it and where it was further processed - for example, "GB-ORG-02".
Certification bodies will visit farmers and processors annually to ensure they are abiding by EU and the certification bodies' standards.