Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the Advertising Standards Authority.
Advertisers seeking to make claim regarding farming methods must ensure that they hold documentary evidence to prove all claims, whether direct or implied, that are capable of objective substantiation within the copy (rule 3.7).
Unqualified, absolute claims such as “environmentally friendly” or “sustainable” should be avoided because all managed food production systems cause some damage and the CAP Code requires that absolute environmental claims are based on the full life cycle of the product from manufacture to disposal (rule 11.4).
Claims in relation to animal welfare often spark complaints. The ASA received a number complaints regarding ads for eggs which showed images of hens outside, because viewers thought they misled by implying that the hens were “free range”. However, the advertiser provided evidence that the hens were “free range” and therefore the ASA did not find the ads misleading (Noble Foods Ltd t/a The Happy Egg Co, 6 April 2011).
Advertisers need to take care that they consider how the average consumer would interpret an ad. The ASA upheld complaints against a press ad which described pigs as “outdoor bred”, because, although it accepted that the pig farming industry differentiated between “outdoor bred” and “outdoor reared”, it did not consider that the average consumer would be aware of its particular meaning. The ASA considered that consumers were likely to understand "outdoor bred" to mean that the pigs used to produce the product spent the duration of their lives outdoors, and because that was not the case, upheld complaints that the ad was misleading (Waitrose Ltd, 20 October 2010). The ASA did not uphold complaints in relation to an image which accompanied the claim “[Morrisons] standard chickens meet the Red Tractor Assured Standards" because, although any depiction of chicken density in an enclosure would vary throughout the life of the birds and the particular photograph demonstrated mature chickens approaching their largest size at a point in their lives when most room was afforded them, the ASA was satisfied that the image was an accurate depiction of the conditions those birds experienced therefore did not mislead (Wm Morrison Supermarkets plc, 20 May 2009).
The CAP Code covers online and VOD advertising ads and advertisers should ensure moving images do not mislead. Complaints against TV ads which showed pigs outside and implied they lived outdoors for the duration of their lives were upheld Waitrose Ltd, 20 October 2010. Ads which showed pigs in a spacious and free environment which implied their movement was unrestricted when this was not the case were also found to be misleading (Tesco Stores Ltd, 14 September 2011).
Claims regarding farming standards or marks need to make clear what specific standards apply, and be careful not to exaggerate the benefits of a particular system. See also “Organic: Animal Welfare”. Ads which promoted the Quality Pork Standard Mark and made the claim "British pig farms have very high welfare standards" were considered problematic because the context of the ad that implied a link between the quality of the meat and the standard of care of the pigs. The ASA considered the ads misleading because there was no clear guidance as to how to measure pig welfare across Europe, and because there was sufficient doubt as to whether the standard of welfare of pigs on all farms that signed up to the QSM could be described as very high (BPEX Ltd, 11 February 2009).
If a claim is comparative, rather than general or absolute, this should be clear. For example, the claim “Red Tractor Pork is high welfare pork” was problematic because the ad did not make clear it was a comparative claim with imported pork (Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board t/a lovepork.co.uk, 29 August 2012). If advertisers are making comparative claims with identifiable competitors there are specific rules to follow (Rules 3.33 to 3.37). Please see “Comparisons: Verifiability”.
Please see “Organic foods”.