Vancouver-based Earls restaurants shuns Alberta beef
A popular eatery based in B.C. is on the receiving end of some harsh criticism after it decided it would not buy beef from Alberta anymore, claiming it cannot keep up with consumers' demand for certified humane beef.
Earls Restaurants announced on Wednesday that it would only acquire beef from U.S. retailers that are certified humane.
The company said the decision comes from two years of research into beef that has been raised without the use of steroids, hormones and antibiotics.
“We’ve tested 16 different companies throughout North America and, time and time again, after steak cutting after steak cutting the Creekstone product has won out,” Dave Bursey, Earls protein buyer said.
The company further said that Canadian suppliers cannot keep up with their demand for certified humane beef.
Soon after the decision was made, social media lit up with backlash against the restaurant, with many calling for an outright boycott.
Wildrose leader Brian Jean was one of many politicians who also added their voices to the fight.
He said he is disappointed with the company’s decision and he stands behind Alberta producers, saying that they all work hard to produce the best beef in the world.
Bob Lowe, chair of the Alberta Beef Producers, called the move by Earls a 'slap in the face'.
"As near as we know, they never consulted anybody. The innuendo is that we don't raise our beef, our cattle, humanely, which is absolutely wrong. You're not in business if you don't. It's just part of being a cattleman. You do things in a humane way and for Earls to suggest otherwise is a real insult."
Lowe says the 'Certified Humane' designation comes from a verification program set up in the United States. He says that while he has just skimmed over the document himself, it doesn't include anything dramatically different that what they are doing now.
Many of the suggestions are just straight forward too. "It says cattle must have access to clean water."
He admits that there is no such system in Canada right now, but Alberta Beef Producers is part of a roundtable discussion to change that and put in place a much more comprehensive system.
"We have decided as an industry that we need to communicate better with consumers and with retailers. We have formed the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef which are working with retailers, with processors, with NGOs, with industry to develop a verification system which is all encompassing."
Lowe says that once all that work has been done, they will be able to put a similar stamp on their beef too.
"It will prove what we are already doing."
As for whether or not Earls' shift away from Canadian producers will affect the industry, Lowe believes it won't have much of an impact.
"Earls is a fairly small player. Any amount of beef that we lose in Canada, that people aren't buying in Canada, is significant. But what Earls buys is not that significant. It's more of a slap in the face and innuendo."
Lowe acknowledged the backlash the company is getting online as well. "It shows that consumers trust us more than Earls trusts us."
Earls says it attempted to get Canadian producers to supply them, but none could provide for all of the chain’s 65 restaurants.
Until now, all of the restaurants' beef came from Canada.
The company is now being supplied by producers in Kansas.
More information about the new policy from Earls can be found on their website.
Earls is no stranger to controversy either. Back in 2013, the eatery had to change the name of one of its popular lagers, 'Albino Rhino', after a human rights tribunal ruled that the name was offensive.
A Vancouver woman with albinism first brought the case forward to the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal.