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: