You use to be my husband and I’s first pick for a restaurant and now after your latest ad campaign we will no longer be eating there.
The Erika’s and their families
This is a very frustrating time for us as cattle producers. Big corporate business is using fear tactics in advertising to sell more product, meanwhile there are huge negative impacts on the beef industry. As rancher’s we take real offence to these marketing scams that imply that Canadian ranchers are not doing a good job at raising cattle in a humane fashion or following antibiotic guidelines; when in fact Canada is one of the safest food producing countries in the world.
It’s frustrating that marketers can come up with a ‘catch phrase’ that instantly implies that producers are not treating their animals in a humane way. It is even more frustrating that consumers so quickly believe it. We love our animals and do everything we can to ensure their health. Canada has recently put in place the Beef Code of Practise which gives guidelines to raise healthy, safe beef. In addition, the Beef Code of Practise was designed with the involvement of many different stakeholders including the SPCA, McDonalds, ranchers, consumers, veterinarians and many more. On both of our ranches, just like the majority of Canadian ranches, we keep improving our management practises and striving to be innovative. For example, on both of our ranches we have completed the Environmental Farm Plan, Verified Beef Production, and this year are trying a new product that is on the market that is called Metacam. Metacam is an anti-inflammatory that we can offer to a sick or hurt animal just like we would take an Advil. For Earl’s to source their “humane” beef in the USA instead of Canada directly impacts our families as this is our livelihood. Moreover, they are not specific as to what humane means and their qualifications are no different that what ranchers in Canada do already.
Looking at the FAQ’s on Earls website their response to “What does ‘humanely or ethically raised’ mean?” Earl’s vague answer left us feeling more frustrated. There are no specific standards their beef source follows. Their explanation begins with it varies? If you are marketing this product that is humane certified shouldn’t it have specific guidelines to follow not variable ones?
Another section from the FAQ’s on Earls website they claim that the animals for their beef are treated with care, respect, dignity and are ethically cared for. Again this is advertising. All ranchers we know do these things. That is why they are ranchers. It is frustrating because they create a doubt in the consumers mind that we are not doing these things.
Earls says they are humane because meat for their restaurants is harvested at facilities that have been designed by Temple Grandin. Temple Grandin is an amazing animal behaviourist who has designed over 60 % of the slaughter facilities in North America. Her low stress handling facilities have revolutionized the industry worldwide, therefore her techniques are not just restricted to “Earl’s” beef, but the majority of the beef industry. Her low stress handling techniques are used by ranchers everyday when moving and handling cattle.
Lastly, the catch phrase ‘anti-biotic free’ we have a real issue with, especially when it is combined with the word ‘humane’. If an animal is suffering, is it humane NOT to treat this animal with the recommend product and dose of antibiotics? Is it more humane to let an animal suffer even when you have the means to treat it?? As ranchers we do use antibiotics when necessary. If an animal is sick, and can be treated, we treat it following our veterinarian consultations and the label guidelines complying with the withdrawal period. That means, depending on the product, the label tells you the number of days before the animal can be slaughtered for human consumption, so there is no residue in the meat. If Earls’ is claiming to source humane beef, in our opinion it is inhumane not to treat a sick animal. Do people really think that it is better to let a sick animal suffer when we have the ability to help? What if your child or pet was sick and you could help them, would you choose not to?
Please be confident in Canadian beef and Canadian ranchers. Trust that we are raising quality, safe beef for your family and ours.
Erika Strande and Erika Fossen