Knocking on the Doors of Food Companies, Like Earls



I said last month that I should start giving credit to more companies that do the right thing.

I’m happy to say I can already do that.

Thank you Earls.

If you’ve been under a rock for the last few weeks (or at least not run into a Canadian beef farmer steaming with an opinion on the restaurant chain,) Earls announced they would be sourcing all of their beef from a Kansas company in order to meet the ‘Certified Humane’ label requirements. I shared my concern with that label a couple of years ago, one being that is seems more marketing than building consumer trust.

Earls has announced they are “making it right”.

Now it isn’t just about backing down, as I don’t think they have to.

It’s about working collectively, and that’s why they get a new vote of confidence.

In their release that announced they would be sourcing Canadian Beef, Earls President Mo Jessa said, “We made a mistake when we move away from Canadian beef. We want to make this right. We want Canadian beef back on our menus so we are going to work with local ranchers to build our supply of Alberta beef that meets our criteria.” (emphasis mine)

Shaun Haney talked to their chef Phil Gallagher who said it didn’t have to be Certified Humane labeled but would have to meet their criteria.

Some Canadian farms and ranches have already set up meetings with Earls to discuss how they could be part of that supply chain.

The lesson for Earls: “Involve more people in the conversation,” says Gallagher.

TYF logo_2015_4c-01Shortly after that news, I found myself sitting in a conference in Virginia with the Animal Agriculture Alliance, when the CEO of Culver’s got up to speak about their marketing that includes painting barns blue with the words “Thank You Farmers” and supporting the Future Farmers of America program. Phil Keiser made a statement that I think can resonate with the Earl’s conversation as well — that farm groups and the agriculture industry have to do a better job at engaging with the executives at some of these food companies.

The room in Virginia went silent when he added he hears far more from activist groups than he hears from farm groups.

So Earls says they need to involve more people in the conversation and Culver’s says farmers need to knock on doors to get involved in the conversation – I think it is time we start taking the hint.

Why is industry waiting on a debacle like Earls to get pissed off about, and why instead don’t we work harder to connect with some of these companies? That includes restaurants, grocers and anyone else that would be closer to the retail side.

We talk, and I’m guilty of this too, about going after the consumer, but maybe it is time we did a better job of connecting with some of the other links in the food chain too. Earls is a big beef customer in Canada. Culver’s is a big beef customer in the US. It’s time that we went knocking on their doors, ready to find out what they need to stay ahead of the curve. Sometimes what they say isn’t going to be easy to hear. Other times those conversations could stop a misleading label from getting past an idea at the board room table. And if nothing else – at least it can start building relationships that lead to more conversations.

Whether it be through social media, or our farm leadership not just having government lobby days, but also corporate days – we need to keep stepping up to talk about what we do on the farm and why we do it.

Otherwise more are going to line up on the other side and dictate what should be done, for better or worse.

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