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What’s The Beef?
Written By Al Jones
Ever hear the old saying, “Careful who you step on”? It’s meant to warn folks that by stepping on others in search of success, you may actually limit your success. It’s much better to work with others to achieve success, thus sharing in the spoils.
This is a lesson the ‘Earls Restaurant Chain’ is in the process of learning. As many people may know, they announced last week that their chain would be serving only ‘Humanely Certified Beef’. Now that, in itself, would not have hurt them. They, in fact, could have seen a fairly significant increase in their business, as people want to know that their food source is quality and ethically controlled. Here’s where they went wrong...
They followed up by saying they had to search all the way to Kansas, USA to find a beef supplier that met the criteria of ‘Humanely Raised Beef’ in the quantities that they needed. They told the public that they couldn’t find enough supply in Canada. They said they looked for over two years, and couldn’t find enough Canadian producers to fulfill their demand. You can imagine the uproar that ensued.
By making such a statement, they insulted not only Canadian beef producers by implying that they don’t treat their animals humanely, but also indirectly insulted anybody that serves Canadian beef on their dinner table. The implication was that if you are serving Canadian beef, you are somehow immoral and don’t care about the welfare of your food source.
Immediately, the hashtag #Earls started trending on Twitter. Most people would love their brand to go viral, but unfortunately, they went viral for the wrong reason and the hashtag #BoycottEarls also started to trend on both Twitter and Facebook.
Mainstream media tried to give them the benefit of the doubt, so they went out and talked to some Canadian beef producers. Turns out that many producers raise beef to the specifications of the client/restaurants that they sell to. If given the desired specifications, a beef producer could raise beef to fit any desired conditions, fat content, antibiotic-free, etc. requirement to fit the end client’s need. If a cow got sick, it would be inhumane to let them suffer, so they would give the antibiotics needed and remove that particular cow from the client’s desired supply to sell to someone else with different specifications.
The fallout has carried over to some of the other restaurant chains owned by the Fuller family (same family that owns the Earls chain). People are also boycotting ‘Cactus Club’, ‘Joey’s Restaurants’ (not to be confused with the Joey’s Only Seafood chain that is locally owned and operated) as well as the ‘Saltlik Steakhouses’.
Earls’ PR and marketing team, no doubt has some damage control to do, as Canadians have decided to boycott their restaurant chain. Other neighbouring restaurants are seeing a welcome increase in business as people are displaying their displeasure at the insult with their wallets. And the other restaurants are taking advantage of their faux pa by proudly declaring that they serve Canadian Beef, and locally declaring that they serve the world’s greatest beef….. Alberta Beef.
I’m sure that over time, we, as Canadians, will probably forget this incident and the Earls chain will again prosper. But how much time it takes, will determine how quickly they recover. If I was on their PR team, the first thing I would do is make a very sincere and public apology. We, as Canadians, are forgiving to those who openly admit when they have done wrong. The second thing I would do is publicly put out a call for a Canadian producer to fulfill the desired requirement of beef served within their chain. This is something they should have done to begin with. We, as Canadians, would flock to their restaurants in droves. Being humble, asking for forgiveness and showing that you are willing to right your wrong would bring about much more positive publicity than insinuating that other restaurants, or even those who serve Canadian beef at their own dinner tables are somehow supporting the unethical treatment of the food sources that we serve.
I’m only one person, and I don’t eat often in any of their restaurants, but I do, from time to time. If they fail to publicly apologize and right their wrong, my ‘time to time’ will remain ‘never again’. I’m sure if their PR team multiplies my occasional dining by thousands of others like me, they will realize the error of their ways.