If ever there was an example of how to alienate an entire portion of your customer base, A&W’s 2013 “Better Beef” campaign was it. Not only did the marketing ploy raise the ire of Canadian ranchers, but the claim of “no added hormones or steroids” also got the back up of just about every conventional farmer out there.
While you can argue the merits of the marketing and production practices all you want, it was A&W’s use of non-Canadian beef to fill its “better” beef needs that had many in rural areas boycott the fast-food restaurant.
Fast forward to 2020, and A&W has announced it is “working towards” serving 100% Canadian grass-fed and finished beef in its restaurants.
The company says it is looking to significantly increase the amount of beef bought in Canada — to the tune of “millions of more pounds of Canadian, grass-fed beef” for 2020. Cattle sourced for the program cannot be fed grain or feed additives, such as rumensin.
A&W says it is working closely with the Canadian beef industry, including Cargill, JBS Canada, Meyer Canada, Beretta Farms, and other packers in Ontario, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, to help grow the market for grass-fed beef in Canada. This is an emerging market, the company says and has committed paying a premium for grass-fed beef.
Seeming to move away from the “free-from” descriptor, A&W is hitching its wagon to grass-fed beef and its role in regenerative agriculture.
Grazing cattle can help maintain soil health, protect and repair Canadian grasslands, and capture carbon from the atmosphere, the company says. “By taking on the role that bison once performed, cattle are helping to maintain the fragile ecosystem that a number of at-risk animals call home. Well-managed grasslands with grazing animals, like cattle, capture carbon into the soil, prevent water loss and drought, and help to protect endangered plant and animal species.”
Australian beef exports, where A&W has been sourcing some of the beef that fits its parameters, are down nearly 20% following wide-spread drought and ensuring wildfires.