Geez, Earl…this is Canada! There are about 12 million head of cattle in Canada including about nine million head just in Western Canada — they may not be all slaughter ready, but there are plenty — and you’re telling me your buyers have to go to Nebraska to find cattle?
And what is this line that your customers are demanding hormone and antibiotic-free and humanely-raised and slaughtered cattle? The few hundred people who were jammed into your McLeod Trail restaurant, Calgary at lunch time about a week ago either were all just eating dressing-free organic greens, or were choking back bio-hazard beef, chicken and pork.
So are your customers who are filling your restaurants telling you “this is my last meal here, unless you switch to natural beef?” Or are you telling your customers “we care about you, so that’s why we are going to the U.S. to find natural-raised humanely-slaughtered beef because it is so much better for you than the drug-riddled meat, harvested from the torture chambers of Canadian packing plants?” You can say that’s not what you meant, but that is exactly what it implies.
So when you serve this natural beef are you going to point out to your customers if you are concerned about your health and hormones, there are only 1.6 nanograms of estrogen in a serving of natural beef, but that glass of beer you’re drinking has 25,000 nanograms of estrogen? I think you need to get that warning on your menu as well. And while you’re at it highlight the amount of fat, sodium and sugar in all your menu items so consumers aren’t exceeding their recommended daily limits in these components as well. I don’t know how that will affect sales of Truffle Fries or Sticky Toffee Chocolate Pudding, but for customer safety they need to know.
A & W is on the same kick. According to their commercials consumers can just taste the amazing, healthy difference of eating hormone-free, antibiotic-free beef, chicken and pork products. They feel healthier after one bite. Probably it is an oversight the company hasn’t mentioned an order of poutine has 610 calories, 33 grams of fat, 65 milligrams of cholesterol and 1770 milligrams of sodium. And if by some remote possibility you happen to have a teen burger/fries combo that only amounts to 1100 calories, 59 grams of fat and 1640 milligrams of salt — according to Health Canada that one meal accounts for just about all the recommended daily requirements.
I fully support natural and organic beef programs so consumers, as well as producers, do have a choice. And if natural and organic products are consistently more tender and flavourful then I am a total convert. I’m all about flavour and tenderness.
I like the food at Earl’s and A & W (unfortunately my pants don’t). If you want to serve natural and organic products because they taste better…go for it. But I am nationalistic enough to say “buy Canadian first”. Tell the Canadian beef (or meat) industry what you want, because it is apparently better show them the premium price you are prepared to pay, and let Canadian producers have first crack at supplying that market.
And as far as humanely-raised and slaughtered I am just not sure what differences there are between natural, organic and conventional processes. I haven’t heard of too many conventional ranchers out beating their cattle for fun, and packing plants all need to comply with industry and animal welfare standards. Maybe in Nebraska naturally-raise cattle walk on their own from a pasture or feedyard directly to a processor because they know it is the best way to go. “Take me, I’m healthy and tender, and I’ve heard good things about how you deliver a bolt to the head.”
Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary. Contact him at 403-592-1964 or by email at [email protected]