Poll: Is marketing of food "differences" good or bad for farming?

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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?

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