Earls Restaurant is getting grilled by cattle farmers and customers after announcing a major business change Thursday.
The chain is moving to become the first in North America to serve “100 per cent Certified Humane” beef.
According to the non-profit organization behind the Certified Humane label, consumers “can be assured that the food products have come from facilities that meet precise, objective standards for farm animal treatment.”
But Earls couldn’t find a supplier in Canada, so every steak is coming from Kansas.
#BoycottEarls trended for hours on Twitter Thursday.
Earls said staff and guests told the chain the welfare of animals outweigh the country of origin.
A lot of people outside the beef industry were also furious with the restaurants decision, calling it – among other things – a marketing ploy.
Saskatchewan rancher and blogger Adrienne Ivey called into Gormley on Thursday to weigh in on the debate. She raises cattle near Ituna.
“I was incredibly disappointed that yet another Canadian restaurant has gone down this fear-based marketing path,” she said.
Ivey added that there is a lot of misunderstanding about the Canadian beef industry’s practices — and she pointed to antibiotics as an example.
“It’s not common practice for beef cattle to be on constant antibiotics — it’s really used as a sickness treatment program,” she explained.
The CEO of the Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association, Ryder Lee, said food marketing is almost “out of control,” and the humane beef brand is an unfair label placed on producers who often put their animals before their own welfare.
“I think that’s where a lot of the frustration is, you’re questioning what people do in Canada by putting this label out there,” Lee said.
He calls it just another marketing hook to get money from consumers, adding it’s “disappointing” people buy into the message without knowing the facts.
“You’re hearing phrases and seeing things being marketed that a lot of the times probably aren’t adding a lot to your understanding to what you’re buying – but it’s an extra story.”
Lee said there is not “a whole lot” of difference in the criteria used to certify humane beef. In the end, he said cattle are all slaughtered the same way.
See here for more on Canada’s standards for the humane handling and slaughter of food animals.