It's a good thing I like packing my lunch, because it appears I have fewer options for restaurants than I used to. First A&W and now Earls have decided not to use Canadian beef. Earls’ decision to source beef from a company in Kansas, under the misguided belief that it is somehow more "humanely raised", is nothing more than a marketing gimmick and has put them in a very clear standoff with Saskatchewan and Canadian beef producers.
Let's be clear: Saskatchewan and Canadian cattle are raised in the most humane way possible. Our ranchers follow a Code of Practice that prescribes how animals are to be cared for throughout their life. This code outlines when animals should receive antibiotics and pain medication, as well as requirements around transportation, access and quality of food and water, shelter, handling and more. It doesn’t read all that different to the “Humane Farm Animal Care Standards” that Earls has chosen. In Canada, slaughter is regulated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, with very strict standards that would meet the slaughter standards established by Temple Grandin, an established authority on humane handling.
But even if a Code of Practice wasn’t in place, our ranchers would do the right thing. They are out in -40 C putting out extra feed and bedding. They will stay with a cow all night while she is calving. They will take a new born calf into their own home to ensure its health on a cold night. Our ranchers treat their cattle with the utmost care and respect. They wouldn't have it any other way. I know, because I am one.
The decision of restaurants and retailers not to use Canadian beef is a problem. Not only does it deepen a misunderstanding of modern agriculture based on fear, it also puts our beef producers at an economic disadvantage. Beef is big business in Saskatchewan. In 2014, livestock farm cash receipts reached $2.7 billion, $1.9 billion of which came from the cattle sector. Saskatchewan's strong agricultural sector helps ensure our economy remains resilient during these turbulent times.
Without a doubt, the best beef comes from the best cattle producers, right here in Canada.
I take deep pride in my work as a farmer and rancher, and I can’t sit at a table where the ethics and values of our agriculture producers are called into question. So, until Earls and A&W come to their senses, I am going to have to make my lunch plans elsewhere.
Saskatchewan Minister of Agriculture