UK ASA: Are You Really "Free Range"?

The UK's advertising watchdog, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), banned a TV advert by Tesco Stores Ltd promoting its own-brand "Butcher's Choice" sausages. The ad featured pigs roaming in a field, in a hay barn and walking with a farmer down a lane. Members of the public complained that the pastoral-like depiction of the pigs was misleading because the sausages were sourced from pigs that were bred and reared indoors. Tesco, the UK's largest retailer, defended the ad saying that, although the meat used for the sausages came from pigs that were "finished" indoors, some of them were born outdoors; the farm shown in the ad was a supplier for the sausages, and both indoor and outdoor bred pigs were reared to proper standards of husbandry and animal welfare. The ASA was not persuaded. It noted that in all scenes in the ad the pigs were shown to be in a spacious and free environment, wandering around freely. This, it found, would mislead consumers into thinking Butcher's Choice sausages were made from pigs allowed unrestricted movement and access to outdoor pastures, which was not the case. The ASA is clearly attuned to the fact that the rearing conditions of the animals from which meat, dairy and egg products come from is a factor in the purchasing decisions of many UK consumers. Though the sausages were not marketed as 'free range' products, the ad portrayed pigs in a traditional farming setting that belied the more confined conditions the pigs were actually reared in. Advertisers should take care not to suggest (even if only through background imagery) that animals are reared in better conditions than is the case, as this may be deemed to mislead consumers. – Richard Dickinson

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