A TV ad, for the Red Tractor Scheme, featured farmer and television personality Jimmy Doherty on his farm with pigs and piglets wandering around and eating straw, and straw being shovelled in to an open sty. He said "Now more than ever it's important to know where all your meat comes from, and I think the easy way to do that is to trust the Tractor. All pork, sausages and bacon carrying the Red Tractor mark is traceable back to Red Tractor farms. It is inspected to ensure all the pork you buy has come from pigs that are well looked after, raised to good standards by responsible farmers".
Compassion in World Farming and 86 viewers challenged whether the ad gave the misleading impression that all Red Tractor pigs were raised to free range welfare standards, which the viewers understood was not the case.
The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) said the purpose of the ad was to get consumers to think about the provenance of their pork, the choices they made in buying their meat, and to ask consumers to look for the Red Tractor logo as evidence of compliance with the qualities underlying the Red Tractor Scheme.
They said the ad featured farmer and television personality Jimmy Doherty, who was chosen as a spokesman because he was a Red Tractor farmer operating within the Red Tractor Scheme. AHDB said it was appropriate to show him in his own working environment on his own farm, but they were mindful to present a range of farms and rearing techniques to paint a fair picture of the scheme. They also visited a mass outdoor farm (as Jimmy's farm was much smaller scale than the majority of outdoor producers) as well as an indoor farm to shoot footage for inclusion in the ad.
AHDB argued that time was limited and it would not be possible to include all pork production facilities in the ad. Nonetheless, they had made a concerted effort to include examples of non free-range outdoor farms and indoor pig accommodation to ensure a balanced depiction of farm types. They said the ad contained a range of images including four depicting pigs and piglets outdoors and three indoor scenes; it did not exclusively focus on outdoor free-range type farms but provided a balance of the types of farm certified under the Scheme. They believed that the proportion of shots of Mr Docherty's farm were not misleading or disproportionate, but simply illustrated, among others, a genuine Red Tractor farm and the standards applied.
AHDB said neither they nor the Red Tractor Scheme promoted one particular rearing technique over another and at no point in the ad was it suggested that the Scheme provided or guaranteed free-range pork production; no mention of pigs being free-range, outdoor reared or outdoor bred was made, because it would have been misleading.
Clearcast said the message from the ad was that it was important to know where your meat came from; at no point in the ad was it suggested that the Scheme provided or guaranteed free-range pork. They believed the dialogue neither over exaggerated nor over promised what the Red Tractor logo represented and all claims were accurate, open and reflected the accompanying images.
They said the ad used various images from Red Tractor farms including Mr Doherty's and believed the images struck a fair balance in representing the Red Tractor Scheme. They said there were no verbal or visual implications that linked the animals shown to the final produce presented in its packaging nor that Red Tractor farms produced only free range meat.
The ASA noted the majority of complainants appeared to be responding to an online campaign questioning the general standard of animal welfare on Red Tractor farms as well as whether the ad implied that all the pigs were free-range.
We acknowledged that some aspects of pig farming in the UK were contentious, but accepted that the Red Tractor Scheme applied measures in an effort to control their use and the pigs were raised to good standards. We also understood from the complainants that one particular farm in the Scheme had been exposed as falling below Red Tractor Standards. AHDB explained that the farm was removed from the Scheme and following their own investigation they implemented a number of measures and substantive changes to the Red Tractor Scheme Standards and established more stringent inspection to help avoid a similar problem in the future. We considered that the monitoring of such schemes could not be absolutely infallible and one incident did not undermine the legitimacy of the Red Tractor Scheme. We also noted the actions taken by Assured Food Standards to ensure that members adhered to the Scheme's standards. We considered that, although the incident was unfortunate, it did not negate the claim "It is inspected to ensure all the pork you buy has come from pigs that are well looked after, raised to good standards by responsible farmers".
We noted the main message of the ad was the importance to consumers of knowing where their meat came from and that the Red Tractor Scheme meat was traceable back to the originating farm. The ad made no specific claims that the pigs on Red Tractor farms were all raised to free-range welfare standards and the ad showed, albeit briefly, indoor farms as well as Jimmy Doherty’s farm, which we understood was an accurate representation of his farm.
We considered that viewers would understand that the farm shown was Jimmy Doherty's and featured in the ad because he was, for the purposes of the ad, a representative of the Scheme. We considered that viewers were unlikely to believe that all the farms in the Scheme would necessarily be comparable to his or that it represented all the farms in the Scheme, only that Red Tractor pigs were "raised to good standards by responsible farmers".
Because the ad's message was one of being able to trace meat back to its originating farm and no claims were made that all the pigs were outdoor bred and images of indoor pig accommodation were shown, we concluded that the images were unlikely to mislead viewers that all the pigs were free-range.
We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules 3.1 3.1 Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising) and 3.9 (Substantiation), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.