NAD Recommends Hatfield Discontinue Animal Welfare Claim for its Pork Products Following NAD Challenge

New York, NY – Sept. 19, 2019 – The National Advertising Division has recommended that Clemens Food Group LLC / Hatfield Quality Meats discontinue the claim “Ethically Raised by Family Farmers Committed to a Higher Standard of Care, Governed by Third Party Animal Welfare Audits” on product packaging for Hatfield pork products.  The aforementioned express claim, and the implied claim that the pork produced for Hatfield pork products comes from pigs raised in a more ethical manner than conventional production, were challenged by the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI).

NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation and is a division of the BBB NP’s self-regulatory and dispute resolution programs.

NAD noted that the challenged claim “ethically raised by family farmers committed to a higher standard of care, governed by third party animal welfare audits” was reviewed by USDA as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) mandatory prior approval system.  However, NAD will not automatically defer to regulatory determinations.  The record here did not demonstrate that FSIS considered consumer impact or that it explained its reasoning with respect to its determination on the “ethically raised” claim. Accordingly, NAD undertook its own review of the challenged claims.

AWI contended that a high percentage of consumers were misled by Hatfield’s animal welfare claim because they took the claim to mean that the animals’ treatment and living conditions exceed industry standards, thereby causing consumers to choose its product over competitors’ products.  The challenger provided the results of a consumer perception study as support for this argument. Hatfield countered that its claim communicates its intended meaning that this benefit is based on Hatfield’s exclusive use of family farmers who are committed to a higher standard of care, and is verified (in part) by third-party animal welfare audits. 

NAD determined that AWI’s consumer perception survey was methodologically sound and that it sufficiently demonstrated that one message reasonably conveyed by the label is that the treatment or living conditions of animals from Hatfield’s farm exceeds animal welfare standards set by the industry.  Further, NAD independently determined that the challenged claim reasonably conveys the implied message that pork produced for Hatfield pork products comes from pigs raised in a more ethical manner than conventional production based on the plain language of the claim itself and the use of comparative language (i.e., higher) to define its standard of care.

NAD carefully reviewed the support offered by Hatfield, which consisted of caretaker standards, third-party auditing and related practices, and its relationship with animal welfare expert, Dr. Temple Grandin who helped to develop Hatfield’s sow houses and processing facilities.  Hatfield also noted its work with several leading universities and its early adoption of humane animal practices. However, NAD concluded that this support is not sufficient to substantiate the claim at issue because the practices cited by Hatfield as innovative are not directly relevant to any third-party auditing program as stated in the challenged claim.  NAD, therefore, recommended that the advertiser discontinue the claim “Ethically Raised by Family Farmers Committed to a Higher Standard of Care, Governed by Third Party Animal Welfare Audits.”

NAD noted that although it was encouraged by Hatfield’s commitment to continue  implementing animal welfare practices in the future, it determined that these aspirational programs were not sufficient to support the challenged claim for Hatfield’s commercially-available products.   NAD noted that Hatfield may be able to make a more limited animal welfare claim, so long as the claim is truthful and accurate, narrowly drawn, and communicates to consumers more clearly the parameters of the claim. In its advertiser’s statement, Hatfield stated it “accepts NAD’s recommendation concerning the ‘higher standard’ portion of the claim and will take into account in future label claims NAD’s suggestion that Hatfield communicate more clearly the parameters of an animal welfare claim.”