Surely by now you have seen and/or heard the uproar that the Panera’s ‘EZ Chicken’ campaign started with the farming community? Not too long after that Chipotle came around with their now infamous scarecrow advertisement which misleads the viewer into fearful (illustrated) demonstrations on how evil farming is. Quite frankly, if these restaurant chains were available in *Alberta I wouldn’t support them. Panera uses the fear-marketing technique that they only use “all natural antibiotic free” chicken. So why do companies like Panera capitalize on this? Because Suzie Creamcheese is standing outside of Panera and another leading sandwich company’s stores and advertised on the window of Panera’s is: “All Natural Antibiotic Free Chicken!”….but the sandwich store next door doesn’t say that! Suzie doesn’t want to eat antibiotics in her sandwich! Suzie better eat at Panera then. Little does Suzie (probably) know…all chicken must be antibiotic free and this is the same for Canada. The other store just chose not to mislead the consumer in advertising this way.
Now the latest restaurant to use fear-marketing is A&W Canada with their new marketing campaign for “100% pure beef raised without any added hormones or steroids“. The conversation on Twitter was quite amusing when real ranchers stepped in to discuss certain points that were very misleading in their new ad campaign.
Our Pure Beef Guarantee simply means that all of our beef is raised without added hormones or steroids, and comes from ranchers who are committed to ethical, sustainable practices. We only use 100% beef for our burger patties and add absolutely nothing else. No additives. No preservatives. Just beef.
— A&W Canada
With that statement, I feel it can lure people into assuming that A&W believes that conventional ranchers who practice differently are not ethical or sustainable, and such is not true. By using the words “better beef” they are then putting cattle producers against each other when “all production decisions, methods, and practices end up in safe, high quality, and wholesome Canadian beef” as the Canadian Cattleman’s Association stated. Hormones occur naturally in animals and plants (and humans too!) which is why they have to state “any added” in their new slogan.
Every single beef product, whether it’s from organic, or natural, or conventional beef production, goes through exactly the same level of checks and balances, [A&W has] just chosen for whatever reason to not use products that have been through Health Canada’s approval process. [A&W’s] decision not to use them is not going to make their beef any better or any safer.
— Reynold Bergen, Beef Cattle Research Council
The Use of Hormones in Beef Cattle
The truth is, that in Canada we are allowed to use growth promotants for our beef cattle. One of the ways is the use of antimicrobials that improve the nutrient availability to the cattle or through hormonal growth implants which give the hormones that are already naturally produced in the animal a “boost”. I had to look that up to inform myself, as I assumed that when you hear that our beef cattle has “hormones” added to it that they’re injecting the cows with syringes full of growth hormone – which simply isn’t the case. As Jenny, whose family owns & operates a butcher shop says: “over 90 percent of the cattle fed receive a hormone implant during growth and this usually occurs as the animal enters the feedlot. The effect of the hormone implant will have worn off well before the animal is shipped to market, meaning that the effectiveness of the hormone implant will have terminated well before the animal is slaughtered. Therefore, residues and/or traces of this hormone implant is not an issue.” Jenny does a really great job explaining more about hormones in beef in this blog post. Steroids and hormones are one in the same and have been approved for use in beef cattle since the 1950s. So that’s just another fear-mongering technique A&W has decided to use. Instead of just claiming “Rasied Without Any Added Hormones” they choose to say “Raised Without Any Added Hormones or Steroids”! It’s quite redundant.
Sustainability & Efficiency
By A&W also stating that they are “committed to ethical, sustainable practices”, it pretty much throws ranchers who raise their cattle in a different way under the bus. As far as sustainability goes, here are some statistics & facts from Beef Cattle Research Council if growth promotants are not used:
- Feedlot production costs would be 8% higher
- To produce the same amount of Canadian beef would require 12% more cattle, 10% more land, 11% more feed, 4% more water, 7% more fuel and fertilizer
- The reduced feed efficiency and more days to finish so means the cattle would produce 10% more manure (with 10% more nitrogen and 11% more phosphorus), & 10% more and greenhouse gasses in the process
- Margins are typically very tight for cattle feeders due to high costs for calves and feed, so the added expense may put most cattle feeders out of business
- Added production costs in combination with lower supplies would markedly increase retail prices, making Canadian beef unaffordable for many families and uncompetitive in the world market
Considering the proper use of growth promotant technologies don’t pose any scientifically-founded food safety concerns, halting the use of them would have obvious negative ramifications for the Canadian beef industry and the environment. This is something that scientists, researchers, food inspection agencies, universities, farmers, and ranchers take very seriously. They want to make sure that they are raising healthy beef in the most efficient way possible for their business and for the safety of the consumer. I’m pretty curious as to how A&W claims to be more sustainable and efficient? They import some of their beef from Montana, and even Australia, and said on their Twitter feed that overall their carbon footprint is less and state their info is from “an independent carbon management organization who audited our beef purchasing”, yet no one has seen this data.
There is a place for more than one type of beef production in Canada, but A&W claiming that this way is more ethical & sustainable is wrong in my books. At the end of the day A&W is a fast food restaurant chain. They sell processed, deep fried food, not deemed to be healthy by any standards food. Yet…they’re aiming to sell their burgers as “the first and only national burger restaurant in Canada to serve beef raised without added hormones or steroids.”
For my fast food needs, I think I’ll stick with McDonalds. They use 100% pure Canadian beef also advertised with no additives, preservatives, or fillers. I also like the approach they are taking with their “Our food. Your questions.” campaign. As for A&W? You guys should withdraw this ad campaign and stick with big, cuddly Root Bears and bring back the frosted mugs. I’ll miss my root beers but I’m not supporting your fear-marketing. I want to be an agvocate for Canadian agriculture and inform my readers as well.
*Edit: I changed Canada to Alberta as apparently there are Chipotle & Panera restaurants in other parts of Canada, but not in Alberta.
Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post and no compensation was received, all opinions are my own.