The Earl’s Conundrum.

Today Earl’s Restaurants announced that they are only serving what they call Certified Humane Beef through their Conscious Sourcing Program. Earl’s claim is: At Earls, we’re committed to conscious sourcing. That’s why all our beef comes from Certified Humane® farms and is raised without the use of antibiotics, added hormones or steroids. After all, it doesn’t just feel good to do the right thing — It tastes good, too.. This beef is not sourced from farmers in Canada. As a cattle farmer, my initial reaction is anger (how dare they infer that the beef I raise isn’t humane?) and then, introspection.

Am I, as a farmer, doing enough for my cattle and to tell people my story? My family spends hours researching new management techniques, how to improve the way we raise our cattle and care for our land. I have 2 degrees in animal agriculture. My husband has an agriculture degree. My sister-in-law is a mixed animal veterinarian. Our farm has an environmental farm plan. We take pride in our cattle and how we take of them and our land.  When we know better, we do better.  To tell others about farming, we have provided time and demo cattle to school events to talk about agriculture, we host groups to tour our farm, news interveiws, and more. On days like today, it seems our voice is not enough.  I encourage anyone that has questions about farming practices to talk to a real, live farmer. Ask me, or check out resources like Farm and Food Care Canada and Ask the Farmers. Talk to farmers and veterinarians about animal care, it’s our life’s passion.

Earls cut steak

Image source : Earls.ca

Why are consumers duped into these programs?  I’m guessing this sells for the same reason many other things do…fear…fear of things we don’t understand. So few people today are directly connect to livestock production, how can you know what is best? Food is a very emotional subject, so selling a fear of other food by inferring that it is “bad” makes a good sale.  Note on Earl’s site, they use the tag line “Cut Steaks, not Corners” to make it seem like anything less than their product is sub-par. As a farmer who cares deeply for my cattle, this is super offensive.

 

 

How is it ethical or humane to withold treatment to an animal that is sick? The Earl’s program is a “Never/Never” program that is stated to that these animal have never been treated with an antibiotic in their lifetime. As a farmer, I take my animal health very seriously. We manage our cattle very tightly, but inevitably, some cattle get sick and I see it as my duty of care to treat the animal as prescribed by my veterinarian to do my best to heal the calf. We also a very careful to follow the directions on withdrawal times to be sure that when an animal is sold, there is no antibiotic left in their system.

How is being less efficient by not using hormones or steroids better for the environment? Keeping producers from using these products is actually worse for the environment. Animals that are less efficient need more resources, feed, land and water, in order to produce the same amount of beef. How is that good for the planet? The safety of these products are clear. It’s safe. The difference between implanted and non-implanted beef is negligible and a drop in the bucket compared to many other things we eat, never mind if you are a woman who uses hormonal birth control.

More technically, I have many questions for Earl’s about how the program was specifically developed, with who (beyond the Creekstone Farm’s plug in the promo video), and how it the program audited? These are big claims for Earl’s to say they are using the Gold Standard in the industry. I am curious to know how they came to the nuts and bolts of the program.

I guess at the end of the day it is about trust. Do consumers trust me, as a farmer, that I am doing the best I can for my cattle and the environment? I’d be crazy not to.

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8 thoughts on “The Earl’s Conundrum.

  1. Good perspective, but whatever. A private company made a decision. They owe absolutely NOTHING to Alberta’s economy, jobs, people, even ‘scientific accuracy’ of their claims. This is the free market baby! Whether unscientific, Earls can do, market to whomever they want. This is the free market baby! You think otherwise? Go read the Communist Manifesto.

    “Evolve or die”

    • A private company did make a decision. Creekstone is halal meat. They were not transparent about thier decision, and were defamatory toward our cattle industry, which is recognized worldwide as exemplary in its safety and animal care standards. I am all about market choice, but let’s call it what it is.

  2. In the reading and research I’ve done (limited, I have no idea where to look) I read that this new ‘policy’ is more a paperwork issue, and that there seems to be a huge misunderstanding about the antibiotics claim. I read it is acceptable with this rating to give antibiotics for treating animals for illnesses, but not for promoting extra growth, like hormones perhaps. Is this not the case? How does this work. I’ve read multiple times that animals were to be given a ‘good life’ which would include, not assumedly – but in the documents, keeping them healthy with medicines including antibiotics. Do you have clarification?

    • The Certified Humane Program that Earl’s uses is a 3rd party (for profit) accreditation program. It is only a part of what Earls is looking for. Earls has the additional requirement that the beef they source has never been given an antibiotic, steroid or hormone. The National Farm Animal Codes of Practice in Canada is a minimum set of guidelines, there are also laws enforced through the various provincial Animal Care Acts for livestock and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Some of it is a paperwork issue on Canadian farmers and rancher’s end on proving what we do by having documentation. There are some programs in Canada like the Verified Beef Program that address some of the requirements and have an auditing program associated with it but they are not mandatory programs.
      In regards to the Antibiotics, Earls is saying the beef they buy has came from animals never treated with an antibiotic, the farm can treat them, but then the animal is slaughtered and sold for conventional (regular) beef. The other issues, that we manage cattle in huge groups, it is recommended best practices to assess the group as a herd and treat an entire group of animals because many diseases are extremely contagious and it is in the best interest of the entire herd to treat the entire group. Earl’s position is the all beef cattle are treated with antibiotics and as such have antibiotics in it, which is categorically false. (If you are interested in the statement it was from Kate Simpson, Communications Manager from Earl’s interview with John Gormley. bit.ly/1QFS5OP.

      So answer your question, using antibiotics to treat sick animals is absolutely part of humane treatment and care of cattle, Earl’s Restaurants some how believes this beef to be sub par quality even if the withdrawal periods for the antibiotics are observed to ensure food safety.

      This is Certified Humane’s standard’s for beef cattle: http://certifiedhumane.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Std14.BeefCattle.1J.pdf
      This is the Canadian Nataional Farm Animal Care Code of Practice for Beef Cattle: http://www.nfacc.ca/codes-of-practice/beef-cattle

      Hope this clears up your question. If not, ask me more. I’m happy to dig deeper into your question.

      Julie-Anne

      • Thanks for your response! I asked my cousin who is a long time rancher in AB and he told me I was ignorant, would starve if I tried to grow my own food (which I do), go bankrupt, and that I had no idea. Your answer was much more helpful!!

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