Opinion Column

End the vilifying of Canadian goods

 Ashli Barrett/Lacombe Globe

A & W Canada should’ve paid attention to what happened with Earls a little over a year ago when they made the decision to only source their beef from an American “Certified Humane” farm.


The backlash from Canadians was swift and poignant; sales decreased by 30 per cent in some locations and it wasn’t long before Earls reversed their decision and Canadian beef was back on the menu. Months afterwards, Earls President Mo Jessa actually apologized to hundreds of ranchers at the Canadian Beef Industry Conference in Calgary.

As one beef controversy ends, however, another was brought forward by Saskatchewan’s former premier, Brad Wall, who criticized A & W Canada for not sourcing Canadian beef exclusively.

A & W tweeted back that they do “our best to source as much Canadian beef as possible, but there simply isn’t enough that matches our standards.”

Here we go again.

It isn’t news that the chain implemented their “Better Beef” program in 2013, where they announced they’d only source beef that didn’t have any added steroids or hormones. While trying to provide a higher quality product to consumers is admirable, the problem with A & W’s decision is that the marketing around it seems to be based largely on fear-mongering rather than truly offering people a superior product.

For one, there are governing bodies – Health Canada – for example, that make sure restaurants aren’t feeding Canadians stuff that truly isn’t good for us. Harvey’s, McDonald’s and Wendy’s seem to have no issue finding enough Canadian beef for their burgers.

It’s easy to get people to buy into the gimmick that hormones, steroids and antibiotics are bad, but realistically, it’s no different than going to the doctor and getting medicine to deal with a cold or flu. The same people that complain about giving a cow antibiotics are often the same that would complain that it’s not being taken care of properly if it does get sick. Why are these big restaurant companies trying to pander to people like that?

And let’s be real - pop, fries and other sides and deserts that go alongside that burger are also loaded with preservatives and everything else, too, so are we really any further ahead?

In general, I’m getting tired of the vilifying of Canadian products and businesses when it comes to so-called environmental standards. Our oil industry is bashed by celebrities who live in neighbourhoods near some of the most carbon-intensive oil in the world. American east-coasters put up a defence against Keystone, yet heat their homes oil and dump their garbage into the ocean.

Now we have national food chains looking to attack farmers and ranchers by creating a rhetoric that producers here aren’t up to par, when Canada has some of the highest standards in the world, thanks to how often we export to other countries.

Their response and effort in working with Canadian producers, personally, isn’t up to par.

I hate to say it – and my deepest apologies to local franchise owners who I’m sure have no say in what the company as a whole does – but the next time I’m craving a burger, I’ll satisfy my hunger elsewhere. 

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