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Waitrose pork ad banned over 'outdoor bred' pigs

A campaign for Waitrose pork has been banned for misleading consumers about the pigs' living conditions, the advertising watchdog said today.

The ads, featuring chefs Heston Blumenthal and Delia Smith, said pork sold under the retailer's Essential Waitrose label was "outdoor bred", despite the pigs living in sheds after weaning.

A television ad showed Blumenthal outdoors with the pigs, saying: "In my opinion, some of the best tasting pork comes from British pigs that have been outdoor bred, just like these porkers from Norfolk," and asking the farmer: "So, Phil, what is it about outdoor bred pigs that makes the meat taste so good?"

The farmer replies: "I think it's got to be the environment they're living in; plenty of fresh air, cereal-based diet and of course a comfortable bed."

In a second ad, Blumenthal says: "Waitrose essential pork comes from pigs that are outdoor bred. Happy pigs do make for great tasting pork," with the farmer adding: "I couldn't agree more."

Five members of the public complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) that the campaign misleadingly suggested Waitrose pork came from pigs that spent the duration of their lives outdoors.

Defending the ad, Waitrose said "outdoor bred" was a standard industry term for pigs born in fields and kept there until weaning, when they were moved into "light and airy" sheds.

The retailer said "outdoor bred" had a different meaning to "outdoor reared", another standard term for pigs that spent about half of their lives in fields.

It was "very mindful" of using the correct term, and believed its use of "outdoor bred" was accurate and did not mislead consumers.

Upholding the complaints, the ASA said "outdoor bred" might be commonly understood in the pig farming industry but the average viewer was unlikely to be aware of its particular meaning.

It said: "We considered, particularly in the context of ads that showed pigs outdoors and referred to 'happy' pigs and pigs that got 'plenty of fresh air', that viewers were likely to understand 'outdoor bred' to mean that the pigs that were used to produce the product spent the duration of their lives outdoors.

"Because that was not the case, we concluded that the ads were misleading."

It ruled that the ads must not appear again in their current form and told Waitrose to ensure future marketing was not misleading.

Waitrose said in a statement: "We are very disappointed with the ASA's decision which is, in reality, about the use of accepted farming industry terminology and definitions in advertising.

"It is not, in any way, a criticism of the award-winning and industry-leading standards of animal welfare insisted on by Waitrose and delivered by our farmers."

BPEX, which represents pork producers, said there were clear definitions for the terms "outdoor bred" and "outdoor reared".

A spokesman said: "Britain's pig farmers, the supply chain and supermarkets have worked hard over many years to provide consumers with clear information about both the provenance of pork and pork products and how animals are reared.

"Today consumers have far more information available, on pack, via advertising campaigns and online to help them make informed decisions about the products that they buy.

"The Pig Task Force, set up by the Government in 2009, made a major contribution on a range of issues including the establishment of a Voluntary Code of Practice. This ensured clarity of labelling, covering country of origin and definitions of different production methods, such as 'outdoor bred' and 'outdoor reared'."