All-Canadian beef means headaches

EDMONTON – The switch from imported beef to Canadian beef to use up product from cull cows may be good in theory, but it hasn’t been without hassles, say processors who are used to imported beef.

“We’ve gone mostly all Canadian now and it’s been quite difficult actually,” said Steve Holland, production co-ordinator with J.D. Sweid Ltd., which supplies hamburgers to large chains like Burger King, Wendy’s and Dairy Queen.

“It’s just been a mess,” said Holland of Burnaby, B.C., who added his company couldn’t find a steady supply of Canadian meat to fill its customers’ orders.

Before, the company had a steady supply of frozen imported beef coming to its plant as regular as clockwork.

Now, in an effort to support Canadian cattle farmers, the large hamburger chains have requested Canadian beef be used. And Holland can’t find enough beef to keep up with his orders.

“We keep running out,” said Holland, who added that some hamburger chains have been forced to take fewer hamburgers.

“We’ve barely been able to keep up.”

Mark Cator, president and chief executive officer of Cardinal Meats, the company which supplies meat to Harvey’s, East Side Mario’s, Planet Hollywood and Zellers, also said the switch to Canadian beef has been a challenge.

“Any change when you’re dealing with large national customers is a problem,” said Cator.

The company has always used a mixture of domestic and imported beef. Since 1994, most of the meat has been imported. That changed with the discovery of a single case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in a northern Alberta cow.

“Right now we’re doing everything in our power to work with domestic product,” said Cator.

Offshore meat was consistent in quality and price, and the processors became comfortable with the high-quality product.

“When you run that product day in and day out, you get comfortable, you get complacent,” said Cator.

“The Canadian beef industry since the BSE incident has had a lot of difficulty projecting their ability to supply. My customers must know there will be no inconsistency.”

George Paleologou, president of Premium Brands, said his firm has made the switch to Canadian beef in most of its products.

“We’ve told our buyers to favour the domestic industry,” said Paleologou of Vancouver.

There are still some products that need the texture only grass-fed beef can provide, he said.

Alberta agriculture minister Shirley McClellan said Canada allowed the Americans to dominate the cull animal market over the years. Almost all Canada’s cull animals were slaughtered in American packing plants.

“We’ve virtually abandoned the cow and bull market here. There’s no reason we can’t recapture that market.

“We’re asking producers to hang in there with us. We will find a solution.”

  • taylor armstrong

    Hello,
    I came across this article stating fast food chains in Canada such as Burger King, Dairy Queen and Wendy’s, have all switched over to Canadian beef. I support this transition completely and am very very happy to see that we are not eating imported meats (as much as we used to). I do have a question or two and would appreciate it if you could take the time to answer me honestly with any information that you may have.
    Producing all Canadian beef for consumers is very important, but what are the living situations for the cattle that is being farmed for these food chains? For example, A&W raises 100% fair beef with no steroids or hormone additives, grass and grain fed, living a fair happy life, where as McDonald’s is the complete opposite. McDonald’s does not care for their live cattle or chickens, these animals are being raised in cramped, unsanitary spaces, being induced with additives, which doesn’t only affect the living animal, but also affects the meat negatively.
    If you could provide some information on the way your animals are being raised, their diet etc. possibly with external hosts, that would be greatly appreciated, as I myself along with many other individuals, only eat cruelty free meats.

    Thank you for your time and i hope to hear back from you in the near future.

    • Paul Yanko

      Hi Taylor,

      I’m not entirely clear just whom your question is directed at, but I’ll try to help.

      The vast majority of cattle producers do their very best to insure their animals are well-treated, well-fed and generally raised according to the best practices the industry has identified over many years of experience – this is, after all, their very livelihood and to raise anything but the healthiest animals is completely counter-productive.

      You focus on McDonalds, and it so happens McDonalds has created a very good website to answer any and all questions people care to ask of them.

      Before I give you that link, I’d like to point out that, as far as I’m aware, NO fast-food restaurant (McDonalds, A & W, Wendy’s etc.) actually owns farms upon which they raise cattle. The beef for their products are typically sourced via farms and vendors such as those I mention above.

      One of the questions answered on the McDonalds site deals with the sorts of cruelty issues you raise in your question. You can find the answer to that specific question, and the McDonalds website where all these questions are answered, here: http://yourquestions.mcdonalds.ca/questions/4901

      Thanks very much for taking the time to write, and for your efforts to educate yourself about the food industry in general.

      I hope you will find my answer and this link of use.

      Cheers,
      Paul – WP web ed