Hot on the heels of Chipotle’s “Scarecrow” scare tactics, comes the announcement from the fast-food chain A&W that it will now be serving “better beef” in both Canada and the U.S. What is better beef? Beef that was raised without the use of growth promotants, according to the company’s press release.

A&W has devoted an entire website to its “better beef” campaign, featuring three ranches who raise the cattle used in this production stream. The website is high-end and seems aimed at connecting consumers with the people who produce their food. That’s what, as an ag industry, we want…right? Or does labelling one production system “better” than the other simply pit one rancher’s practices against the other? Does this branding by a fast-food restaurant build up farming’s profile, or negate the best management practices, as outlined here by the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, that happen on ranches all across the country?

Staying north of the border, Sobey’s also rolled out its own message that it would now feature “humanely raised” meat in its stores. I was in Sobey’s yesterday and snapped the above image. What I find interesting is that much of what’s listed to make this meat “humanely raised” is rather similar to what already occurs on conventional farms (meat birds are not caged). 

What do you think? Is A&W’s campaign good for farming’s image? Is Sobey’s differentiation of chicken and beef an opportunity for some farmers that should be celebrated or simply a wedge pushing more of an ‘us vs. them’ mentatlity? Or, should consumers be more critical of these marketing campaigns? Will they be?

3 thoughts on “Poll: Is marketing of food “differences” good or bad for farming?

  1. The devil is in the details – you can’t make a blanket approval or condemnation of all marketing efforts. Chipotle (and Panera to give another recent example) clearly crossed the line into divisive, misleading advertising by attacking their competitors with negative messages.
    A&W has done no such thing (saying your product is “better” is baseline advertising – do you seriously expect them to say “our beef is the same as that other guy’s” or “our hamburgers are not quite as good, but hopefully you’ll come for the root beer”?!?). The litmus test for me is whether or not someone is trying to promote their product by spreading fear or misinformation about the other.
    Now, it is disappointing to see that A&W is not using 100% Canadian beef. They say they can’t source enough. So maybe it’s time for Canadian ranchers to cowboy up and meet the demand, rather than trying to decrease it.

  2. If A&W’s policy of hormone and antibiotic use was adopted industry wide, the efficiency of beef production would be decreased. This would both increase the cost of beef to the consumer and increase the carbon footprint of the animals. There are no health benefits.

    Who A & W chooses to procure product from and the way they choose to market it is their business. When however, those claims directly or indirectly imply that our product is inferior, it is reasonable that the industry defend itself. That unfortunately is where we are.

    Nobody in the industry wants to challenge our customer (A&W), nor do we want to start fighting within the industry, but if pushed there we need to do so. Frankly, we are in a “whiter than white” debate and if their campaign is unanswered, the public may mistakenly believe their product is “whiter”. Ultimately the consumer will choose, but we need to ensure that both sides of the debate are heard.

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