The U.K. Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has dismissed complaints challenging print and TV advertisements that tout Tesco-brand milk as fairly priced and responsibly sourced. In particular, the complaints alleged that (i) “the image of cows in an open field did not accurately represent how the milk was produced or the conditions in which the cows lived” and (ii) only a small proportion of Tesco’s milk was sourced through the Tesco Sustainable Dairy Group (TSDG).

According to ASA, Tesco countered that all of its core milk suppliers must meet industry Red Tractor standards as well as Tesco’s own Livestock Code of Practice, which focuses on food safety, environmental indicators and “welfare outcome measures such as lameness, mastitis, fertility, and animal health.” The retailer also reiterated that core farmers with TSDG “supplied approximately 80% of Tesco’s total milk requirements over the course of the year,” while seasonal farmers provided additional milk during periods of low production. Tesco explained, however, that “[b]oth Core and Seasonal farmers were part of TSDG and received the full TSDG price for the milk they supplied” regardless of the retail price charged for milk.

Based on these arguments, ASA found that not only were adequate procedures in place “to look after the animals’ health and welfare,” but that “the figures supplied by Tesco showed that all their own brand fresh and filtered milk (excluding organic, goat and flavored) came through TSDG.” As the agency concluded, “We appreciated that the exact conditions in which cows would be kept were likely to vary from one location to another and according to weather conditions and time of year… We noted Tesco’s explanation that both [seasonal and core farmers] were paid at the same TSDG rate for the quantity they supplied, and that the rate had been calculated to recognize the cost of producing milk and to include provision for capital investment, which we considered would be significant considerations for consumers deciding whether or not they would buy milk at Tesco in response to the ad.”