Monday, May 2, 2016

Earl's Restaurants and Certified Humane

Alternate title, “It’s not the beef, it’s the bullshit”.

From a super article on beef in LIFE HACK
Last Wednesday, April 27, Earl’s announced they were switching from Canadian to US beef because they could not access sufficient Certified Humane beef in Canada. They will be buying all their beef from Creekstone Farms, a processing plant in Kansas. (Actually they are a slaughter plant but processing sounds more humane). This apparently took our industry by surprise, though Earl’s started looking two years ago. Anyhow, the feces hit the fan so to speak, especially in Alberta and rightly so, because it implied that Canadian beef was not raised humanely. To put it into perspective, imagine you ran a restaurant and a competitor put up a sign that said “Eat at our Restaurant. OUR food isn’t poisonous”.

Now Earl’s claims it was just meeting consumer demand and I am sure that is true.  Earl’s is billed as an upscale steak and burger joint.  Who are their upscale customers who would demand such a thing as “Certified Humane”.  Limousine Liberals and Chardonnay Socialists, of course.  They have been taken in by the fact-free headlines and stories that fill the media. They don’t really care if the stories are true or not, they just want to appear to care and check off the little box, massaging their consciences and padding their egos and giving them bragging rights.  

(This also applies to “Locally sourced”.  See this investigative reporters article on upscale Florida restaurants who “locally source”: http://www.tampabay.com/projects/2016/food/farm-to-fable/restaurants/)

These are folks who wouldn’t pay $20 for a steak if they could possibly pay $50 or pay $25 for a Christmas turkey if they could find one for $75 as long as it has a good story; the better the story, the more they pay. And Creekstone Farms has a story. As does Heritage Angus, which is currently supplying beef “hormone and antibiotic free” to A&W but it isn’t Certified Humane.  As does Aspen Beef, which is the only source in Canada of Certified Humane beef but it is a small processing plant with limited supply and already supplying part of Safeway’s beef counter.

There is one other customer that Earl’s may be going after and that is the Muslim community.  Creekstone Farms beef is all Halal killed and this is well known in the Muslim community. Now can you imagine the uproar if Earl’s announced they were switching to American beef to cater to the Muslim crowd? Far better to piss off 70,000 beef producers in Canada than 7 million racist rednecks. I shudder to think.

I got trolled by a couple of friends who ragged me about the Alberta beef industry being rather dinosauric in nature.  Now they may have had that coming, given their response to Notley’s labour legislation earlier on but it did not sit well. The truth being that Canadian beef meets or exceeds the humane requirements, it just isn’t certified as such. 

Certification is not the future.  It is the here and now.  Of everything.  It began in industry with the ISO 9000 and all the related programs.  In the food processing industry it is called HACCP.  The Certified Humane requirements for beef cattle are excellent, other than the stuff about hormones and antibiotics, which I will deal with on another blog sometime.  Almost 60 pages of detailed best practices in beef cattle production, put together by a who’s who of beef scientists.  I did not do a line by line but it is virtually the same as the National Farm Animal Council of Canada’s almost 70 page Beef Code of Practice.  You can compare them HERE and HERE.

The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association and related agencies have invested a great deal of time and money into addressing the issues facing the beef industry.  And they do not in any way deserve the bum rap they just got.  It is not about American beef.  Other restaurants import their beef from America.  It is about Earl’s advertising that makes it sound as though Canadians were abusing their animals.  You can read Earl's message HERE. Most of it is just a marketing ‘story’. And marketing trumps science any day.

Ed Pajor, professor of animal welfare at the University of Calgary, is internationally recognized for his research on the behaviour and welfare of food animals and rodeo animals and one of the authors of Certified Humane requirements for beef cattle. He outlined steps the Canadian cattle industry was doing towards humane certification labelling:

I think (Canadian) producers don't really get the credit they deserve for the programs they are developing and moving forward with. We have the National Farm Animal Care Council's Code of Practice, which is brand new (2013). We have the Feedlot Assessment  Program, which is also an on-feedlot assessment that looks at the care the animals are receiving. There's also the Roundtable on Sustainable Beef. The issue here is that the programs in Canada are slightly behind in terms of timing. For example, the Feedlot Assessment Program that's coming out was only introduced in January.... So we're progressing along down the same line.

Just because Earl’s is saying they can’t find a supply of Certified Humane meat in Western Canada doesn’t mean that producers aren’t doing a good job.  Other programs include:

For the past 15 years, the producer run, mandatory Canadian Cattle Identification Program has been able to trace individual animals from slaughter house back to the home farm and then forward to all the places it traveled between the home farm and the packer.  This means that reportable diseases can be tracked and control measure in place in 48 hours.

The Verified Beef Production Program (VBP) is Canada’s HACCP type verified on-farm food safety program for beef – a dynamic program to uphold consumer confidence in the products and good practices of this country's beef producers.

None of the programs appear to be organized so that they can be incorporated into a Certification Program. I don’t know if that is good or bad but if the industry is to compete with the Fact-Free Infauxmation which saturates the media it has to market itself better.  Information is all there neatly arranged on industry websites but it doesn’t do any good because only producers see it.  Which in many ways is fortunate because some of it is atrocious.

I downloaded an excellent brochure from the Alberta Beef Producers called “Worried about Hormones in Cattle”.  The title of the pdf in my folder? 2014hormoneupdatesmpdf-452.  Doh.

Then there is a webinar “Hormone use in beef cattle: facts, fears, fantasies”. I will not post the link because someone who isn’t a producer might watch it.  It is an hour and fifteen minutes and boring. It was fine for a webinar aimed at producers but nowhere near polished enough for a general audience.  The first 20 minutes were of some guy explaining his job.  Good information for producers but it should have been edited out and posted separately under a different title. 

The main topic had good information and Reynold Bergen knew his stuff but it was not scripted and was slow and jerky.  Without a laugh track, I never knew if his dry subtle humour was appreciated or not. It needed to be edited, scripted and likely professionally voiced. And 45 minutes is too long and it would have been better as a video.

Video’s need to compete with these (sent me by my friends), courtesy of your competitors. How these are financed, I don't know but they sell the idea that folks with a competing actually truthful message are in the pay of the nefarious industry:
If a few of your friends suddenly went vegetarian back in 2011, there’s a good chance it’s because of “Forks Over Knives.” A number of celebrities and even professional athletes reported adopting a more plant-based diet after seeing the film, which explores how cutting out meat can improve our health and that of the environment. As it turns out, Netflix is a fountain of information when it comes to our food system, which may an indication of how ugly things are getting. If you’re hungry for more info, check out one of the many other sustainable food documentaries on offer, including “Cowspiracy,” “Food, Inc.,” “Fed Up” and “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead.”

Why does all beef and beef cattle information come from obviously beef sites? It needs to come from everywhere.  Look at the number of organizations pumping fact-free fantasy about the beef industry? They have different names, different MOs, different target audiences.  Their bullshit makes them money.  Let’s take Anthropogenic Global Warming as an example.  I do not care if you consider it fact-free fantasy or the inerrant gospel and Al Gore the Second Coming. Every day, articles appear on my Facebook News Feed or in-basket and they do not come from the IPCC; some came from MSM, some from obscure sites.  They serve to keep the fear factor ramped up and the doubters beaten down.

This one appeared today. https://www.facebook.com/GOODHQ/videos/10153556877693059/. One-minute-long, one single simple message. No idea if the data is correct and no way to check without a great deal of work.  No idea who produced it or who paid for it but I guarantee it was not a philanthropic exercise. The cattle industry needs to have hundreds of these telling the verifiable TRUTH, coming from all directions into all the social media, programmed to show up in news feeds in response to Google inquiries. (I Googled info on Barcelona once and for three weeks I had stuff showing up promoting the city, tourism and Spain in general).

The codfish lays ten thousand eggs, the homely hen lays one.
The codfish never cackles to tell you what she’s done.
And so we scorn the codfish, while the humble hen we prize,
Which only goes to show you that it pays to advertise.


Certification is not the future.  It is the here and now.  


8 comments:

  1. certified humane beef? really.? that my friend is a crock...Earl is getting reamed..

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    1. The program protocols are actually very good. I don't agree with the hormone and antibiotic fear mongering but then I actually can tell a cow from a combine (most of the time). But the rest of it is mostly just good common sense animal care. And producers are audited. Earls isn't getting ripped off but the prices they charge for this nice story are certainly putting it to the customers but of course they don't really care.

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  2. I have to deal with "certified" lumber. Chain of custody costs wholesalers about $25000 per year to say that their lumber is from renewable sources. I understand that, but basically it's a way for someone to make money by telling people what they want to hear.

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    1. Lumber comes from trees, trees are renewable. What is the certification for then? It is all good marketing. First create a problem where there isn't one then come up with a solution you can profit from. Politicians invented the idea but it seems to have caught on. I see where Trump will be your new president?

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  3. I don't buy enough beef to give much thought to where it comes from.

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    1. You are like the old time ranchers, you eat the neighbour's beef? Just kidding.

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  4. I'd love to think that there's some sincerity behind the whole thing, but my inner cynic just sees a company trying to gain some marketing brownie points. It'll be interesting to see whether it helps or hurts them in the end.

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  5. I think it is simply a marketing ploy, which is how Certified Humane sells their services. Whether backtracking will save their ass or not is still undetermined. However if people insist on assurances about how their food is produced then I do not see the Canadian beef industry escaping this for too long.
    Once everyone is "certified" then beef is back to being a commodity again and all the marketers will have to find a new wrinkle to differentiate.

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