There is no shortage of accreditation schemes for food production, and where chicken meat and egg production is concerned, they seem to grow by the day. Whether the schemes seek to guarantee that a general set of standards have been followed, or whether birds have been raised following welfare guidelines, or meat is antibiotic free, there is scheme after scheme.
But how does accreditation translate into cold, hard cash?
It is easy enough to say that this is what the consumer is demanding but, all too often, particularly in the case of animal welfare, consumers say they want one thing, but then buy another.
After often enormous effort, “real benefits” after accreditation are usually promised, but quantifying those benefits is harder. Although it should be remembered that not all schemes are the same.
I recently spoke with an accreditation body working with poultry and other animal production and asked them whether they could give any examples of where poultry producers had worked to meet their guidelines and seen a corresponding uplift in business. They responded that this was something that they had tried to quantify, but so far had been unable to do so.
20 percent increase
So I was pleased to see a recent headline that said a U.K. poultry producer had seen a significant upturn in sales as a result of accreditation.
Family owned T Soanes and Son, which is based in East Yorkshire and has been producing poultry for 65 years, has recently seen its sales increase by 20 percent. Not a bad performance for any company.
And what the company believes is behind this turnaround is that it is now British Retail Consortium (BRC) Food Safety standard accredited to grade A, and also Red Tractor certified.
Of course supermarkets have a large part to play in whether accreditation is worthwhile, with most larger retail chains refusing to stock food unless it comes with cast iron guarantees -- in addition to legal requirements -- that it complies with certain schemes, guidelines, and so on.
In the case of the BRC standards, they are now often a fundamental requirement of leading retailers “and ensure the standardization of quality, safety and operational criteria to ensure that manufacturers fulfill their legal obligations and provide protection for the end consumer.”
Where Red Tractor is concerned, it claims to be the U.K.’s leading farm and quality food assurance scheme, launched by the food industry to promote clearer labeling and to ensure that food originates from a trustworthy source.
Where next for rising sales?
Back to T Soanes and Son: The company, which produces 5 million broilers and game birds annually, has traditionally sold to butchers and independent retailers locally, as well as to wholesalers nationwide.
In the case of the BRC standards, it took 18 months to work through the process and gain recognition, but with sales now GBP2.5 million (US$3.9 million) higher, the effort would appear to have paid off, and not simply offered ill-defined real benefits.
And where next for this primarily regional poultry and game producer? With nationally and internationally recognized accreditation, the sky may be the limit.