Tesco faces legal threat over 'fake farms' product labels

The Woodside Farms branding could be misleading shoppers, campaigners say (Tesco)

Major supermarkets including Tesco, Aldi and Lidl are being called out for using “fake farm” labelling on products.

Charity Feedback says shoppers are being duped into buying what appears to be meat or vegetables from bona fide small British farms but are in fact from “mega farms”, sometimes outside the UK.

It has now launched Total Bull, a campaign calling UK supermarkets to change their packaging.

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And it is also working with the owner of a real farm called Woodside Farm – a name shared with Tesco’s value pork range since 2016 – to threaten legal proceedings unless the retail giant stops using the name to sell its products.

Jessica Sinclair Taylor, Feedback campaign director, said: “Let’s be clear – supermarkets are selling meat under fake farm names, deliberately encouraging consumers to believe that the meat is sourced from small-scale producers.

“We believe this is peddling a load of bull. For all shoppers know, behind the bucolic mirage could lie a high-intensity, unsustainable mega farm.”

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Tesco, Britain’s biggest supermarket, sparked controversy last year after launching a budget range of seven own-label “farm” brands – including Woodside Farms and Boswell Farms for fruit and veg as well as meat – that are fictitious names.

Free-range pigs roam a farm in the UK – unlike some meat supplied to major supermarkets (Geography Photos/UIG via Getty Images)

In April, Asda relaunched its value Smart Price food range as Farm Stores, while Aldi replaced its Wood Farm brand with Nature’s Pick and Lidl has a Birchwood Farm meat range.

Sinclair Taylor said these brands were proving popular with shoppers as they appealed to the image of “small-scale, local animal husbandry”.

“Tesco is passing off this identity as that of their own products, while actually sourcing their meat from farms of all kinds, including some mega-farms and some outside the UK,” she added.

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Richard Baugh, of the real Woodside Farm in Nottinghamshire, raises free-range pigs for high quality pork products which he sells under his farm name through his own farm shop and website.

But since Tesco appropriated the name, he’s faced confusion from customers. “It isn’t fair that they profit from the associations that come with our farm name,” he said. “Tesco think because they’re big and we’re small they can walk all over us.”

Feedback has written to Tesco highlighting shoppers could be being misled and asking that it rethink its branding.

Roger Sharpley, owner of Boswell Farm, whose name is aped by Tesco’s ‘Boswell Farms’ beef labels, said: “It’s an abuse of power. You can bet that if the boot was on the other foot Tesco’s lawyers would be all over it.”

Tesco said it was aware of the complaint but declined to comment further.