The beef question: Wall criticizes A&W for using non-Canadian producers

The beef question: Wall criticizes A&W for using non-Canadian producers
It appears our Premier has a beef with a national fast food chain. A tweet earlier this week raised some questions -- and today, we hear from both sides. Jules Knox has the details.

A&W is coming under fire from Premier Brad Wall.

“I have a concern with respect to that particular food chain and its advertising, and here’s why,” Wall said. “They’re promoting their beef and the hormone-free, or hormone-free raised beef, that they’re selling in their restaurant as a healthier substitute to what other restaurants are serving,” he said.

Fast food chains including McDonald’s, Harvey’s and Wendy’s use 100 per cent Canadian beef, which Wall quickly pointed out on Twitter.

“For me, that whole effort, that marketing campaign, it’s not based on science, it’s a gimmick, and it’s meant to scare people,” Wall said.

A&W responded on Twitter that there isn’t enough Canadian beef that matches its standards.

“People can vote with their wallets, and now these days they can also tell everybody what they think online, and that’s what we’re seeing,” Ryder Lee, Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association CEO, said.

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“[A&W] is saying they’re not able to source it, and I’ve talked to producers who say, ‘well, I produce it that way.’ So maybe there’s that disconnect or maybe their value chain just isn’t getting that pull,” he said.

Susan Senecal, A&W Canada’s president, said consumers increasingly want beef without any artificial growth hormones.

“We’ve had a lot of really positive feedback from our guests,” Senecal said. “I think one of the things that we’ve been able to do that’s been very powerful and very positive is a lot of people don’t expect to be able to get beef raised without any artificial hormones when they come to a quick-service restaurant.”

Farmers who want to join A&W’s supply should give the company a call, Senecal said.

“We’re always interested in talking to people who want to join our supply,” she said.

Lee said that although some Canadian producers don’t use hormones, they offer value for those who do.

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“When you do produce using these tools, you are able to use less water, less feed, produce less manure, so it’s a thing that’s good for the environment,” Lee said. “And it’s carefully monitored by Health Canada.”

He added national standards are already high because Canada exports beef to so many other markets.

“You’re going to get 50,000 times more units of hormones from the bun. You’re going to get 500 times more units of hormone from the French fries that they’re serving at the same time,” Wall said. “They’re just not talking about that.”

Senecal responded that the difference is in how cattle are raised.

“I think that’s sort of what the difference is that we’ve seen, and when you talk to ranchers who have decided not to use any artificial growth hormones in raising their cattle, they’re very passionate about that,” she said.

Saskatchewan produces about of a third of Canada’s beef, Wall said.

“I think we should call out all organizations that are going to do that and say this is a marketing gimmick,” Wall said. “You could use 100 per cent Canadian beef and you will not be providing any more sort of hormones in your food than you already are. Truly.”

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“If we’re not vigilant about this sort of pseudo-science marketing that companies are doing, I would ask what’s next, and what other products that we grow are threatened next.”

“I like Papa burgers. I do and I miss them, and I hope they change because I miss them,” Wall said.