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.

 

Andrew Campbell

Andrew is a dairy farmer in southern Ontario who also specializes in helping farmers learn about social media and advocacy. Once broadcasting farm news reports on the radio, he still likes to keep a close eye on news and issues relating to agriculture. Andrew is the owner of Fresh Air Media (http://www.thefreshair.ca), has a mild addiction to Twitter and believes the Brier & Scotties are the most important sporting events in the country. @FreshAirFarmer

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2 Comments

Colette McLean

I disagree with Andrew on the idea that farmers need to be knocking on doors of corporate consumers, because Earl’s made it very clear that they researched their move towards “humanely raised” animals for two years. If they had truly investigated this, they would have discovered very easily that the regulatory system in Canada already enforces the safety and quality of Canadian beef and consumers are not consuming beef full of steroids and antibiotics . If they had truly investigated, they would have discussed with Canadian farmers and their associations about this move and found out the truth. Canadian farmers are raising animals humanely already. This is nothing more than a marketing ploy that is playing to the public’s ignorance. How about exposing the corruption which these labels are all about …..cage-free, organic, non-GMO, gluten-free, etc. IMO there is more to this story for eg. maybe Creekside is a single source producer, thus making logistics of purchasing easier for Earl’s, and because they carry this so called ” Humanely raised” imprimatur that also implies that these animals are NOT receiving steroids, or antibiotics Earl’s can distinguish themselves in the market place. I suspect the Canadian beef farmers saw this for the non-truth that it was, decided not to head the pressure since it also represents $$$ out their pockets to additionally label something they were already doing. This kind of pathetic pandering to public opinion, and efforts to “brand” every consumable good out there disgusts me and expecting individual farmers to take on the burden to inform and educate the consumer is an enormous task that individual farmers have few resources and very little time to do. This was not the Canadian beef farmers fault, and Earl’s is only paying lip service to the issue with their mealy mouth retraction.

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richardbarrett

Could someone tell me again what the hormone is called that makes the beef cattle gain more weight but eat less and maybe it may help to have a less fat in my steak therefore does not cost as much as a beef that is feed 100% on grass all it’s life. Grass-fed beef take an extra 6 months to reach the same weight and is higher in CLA and O-mega 3. If the beef to be slaughtered is done right on the farm, there is less weight loss and stress on the beef especially if it is properly Koser killed.

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