Trish Sahlstrom of A&W on "Better Beef" Campaign

The Saskatchewan Stock Growers’ Association’s (SSGA) 101st annual general meeting and convention held last week in Moose Jaw, Sask., certainly didn’t roll without controversy. In fact, there were a couple subjects that really struck nerves with the province’s ranchers, including A&W’s recent decision to source beef produced without antibiotics and hormones, and to brand their product, “Better Beef.”

Trish Sahlstrom, VP of purchasing and distribution for A&W in Canada, presented on behalf of the company, saying the choice was made as a result of survey findings. Though little of the survey methods nor demographic of consumers was disclosed, Sahlstrom presented a slide that demonstrated “What consumers said was important to them.” Topping the list on level of importance for meat used in burgers was “steroid-free,” followed closely by “antibiotic-free” and “hormone-free.”

“We’ve had to go outside of Canada, and we have sourced some from the U.S…and we are getting some from Australia,” Sahlstrom told the media following her presentation.

During her presentation, Sahlstrom alluded to the company lessening its use of the term “Better Beef,” claiming the change has largely been out of respect for the beef industry.

“There was no reason for us to say it… It wasn’t important to consumers. If it had been important to consumers, I guess we would have had to kept saying it,” said Sahlstrom. “It wasn’t. It wasn’t the thing that they were asking about or talking about and so there was no reason to keep doing it and making people uncomfortable or unhappy.”

Regardless of industry perception of the campaign, it doesn’t sound like A&W’s changes will stop at beef.

For the media scrum with Trish Sahlstrom at the SSGA and the voices of Karen Briere, Glenda Lee Allen and others, have a listen:

9 thoughts on “Trish Sahlstrom of A&W on “Better Beef” Campaign

  1. A&W should be ashamed of their scaremongering tactics to the public in order to increase sales! Don’t get me started on the environmental affects seeing that their “sourcing meat from Australia”

    On the whole the steroids and hormones given to cattle (especially in Canada) are at much lower levels than what is administered to cattle in the US. So much so that US meat is banned from the EU including the UK. Canadian beef is accepted.

    What A&W neglect to inform people is that in 500 grams of beef there are 5 nano- grams of estrogen. A man will produce approx 136,000 nano grams per day and a woman approx 513,000 nano grams per day. Tofu contains 113 million nano grams per day for the same 500 grams burger and a white bun is approx 300,000 nano grams.

    It really disappoints me when food chains like this and many other food companies try take advantage of people’s perceptions due to their own lack of understanding. A perfect example of this is scaring people about GMO produce in food and just the other day i see that there is now gluten-free shower gel….REALLY, why???

    Shame on you A&W for cheating the public for your own personal gains!

    1. Gluten free shower gel can be very important for people with celiac disease. Some of my close friends have celiac disease and they can’t tolerate even the smallest amounts of gluten. I watched one close friend eat a salad at a restaurant where the salad was prepared in the same bowl as a regular salad made with croutons, twenty minutes later she was curled up in the fetal position with excrutiating pain. So don’t judge people for something you know nothing about.

      In regard to A and W marketing campaign, if it’s what the consumer wants who cares about the worn out rhetoric about how much estrogen a man or women produces. Give customers a choice or they will go elsewhere for there protein choices. Is organic better, probably not but if some of the customers want organic we’d better deliver. If I go to buy a new truck I have many choices why not give the same choices in beef or any other food choice.

  2. My concerns, as Debra pointed out, where are the demographics? Where are the findings? What methods did they use to gather the info that “this is what the consumers want”? They should strive to be fully transparent if they are going to move forward with this campaign and I still find it really hard to believe that they cannot source 100% Canadian. We have a lot of neighbors in our area alone that raise their beef this way. Maybe other ranchers in Alberta and Canada don’t want to be a part of their “Better Beef” campaign?

  3. This really is disgraceful corporate behavior, how stupid do they think consumers are? Imported hamburger is better than Canadian beef? I will be voting with my feet and not be eating at A&W!

    1. I can’t believe that this is still a crisis in farm circles.
      – “disgraceful corporate behavior” ? It is probably a textbook example of how to brand your product in a crowded market.
      – “how stupid do they think consumers are” ? That question probably answers itself. Science and facts will speak for themselves, if they can be heard over the rhetoric.
      – As far as demographics go, talk to consumers in downtown Vancouver or Toronto, not Camrose or Swift Current. Know your customer. I am sure that A&W spent many dollars on this.
      – Does anyone remember the “If it ain’t Alberta, it ain’t Beef” campaign? Did the Saskatchewan and B.C. ranchers have a fit because it insinuated that their beef was substandard? Do John Deere owners picket CNH stores because Case insinuates that their combines are better? I could go on all day.

      1. I disagree. A&W has a lot of customers in rural Canada. I think Trish’s comments concerning the term “Better Beef” indicate a bit of regret on their part. I don’t know if they talked to beef suppliers or growers extensively before they launched their campaign. It would have been nice if they would have. And I think this a bit of a wake-up call for beef producers as well. Do we talk to our customers about what they want? I think, at least I hope, both sides realize there is more to be gained by working together than by working at cross-purposes.

  4. At least she admitted to with drawing the better beef comment. I’ll have my estrogen free burger on a white bun with cabbage and carrot salad on the side.
    Really it’s all about the agencies.
    Actually I just switched to Wendy’s

  5. Guess what folks people are talking about beef!!! I live beside a large CFO and see a trailer load of animals going to a local plant once a week as a result I will not buy processed product from that facility. That is my choice. Why did CFIA just raise the limits on how much roundup can be present on grains? Who pressured them into that?

  6. Greater Toronto Area – 6 million
    Metro Vancouver – 2.3 million
    Alberta – 4 million with 83% urban/17% rural (2011 census)
    Demographics – lots of studying for advertising companies lol.
    Take it for what it’s worth.

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