A&W will look outside of Canada for beef produced without growth promotants

A&W Canada is now committed to hormone-free beef, but its Mama and Papa burgers might not come from Canadian cattle.

In September, A&W Canada announced that all of its burgers will be made with beef produced without added hormones or steroids. With the decision, A&W becomes the first national burger chain to go hormone-free.

To satisfy its new marketing campaign, known as “Better Beef for a Better Burger,” A&W Canada will buy its beef from ranches in Canada, the U.S., Australia and possibly other countries. 

“We purchase as much beef as possible from Canadian farmers, but there simply isn’t enough available to satisfy our requirements for beef raised without added hormones or steroids,” said Susan Senecal, A&W Food Services of Canada chief marketing officer, in an email. 

“We currently source beef from farms in Western Canada and continue to work with the Canadian beef industry to seek out new ranches across the country.”   

In 2003, following the BSE crisis, A&W said it would buy 100 percent Canadian beef to supply its Canadian restaurants.


Spring Creek Ranch in Vegreville, Alta., is listed on A&W’s website as a supplier of hormone-free beef to the burger chain. A Spring Creek spokesperson said demand for beef free of growth promotants is greater than supply. 

To meet escalating demand, the ranch, which operates a feedlot, is actively seeking beef producers that raise cattle without the use of hormones or antibiotics. 

“There is a lot of interest in our program from ranchers across Western Canada; some people are already raising cattle according to our protocol but without selling into our program they aren’t getting paid a premium for their calves.  Others simply need to make small changes in order to fit the protocol and realize a premium price for their cattle.”   

Gina Teel, Canadian Cattlemen’s Association communication manager, said the CCA doesn’t know the percentage of Canadian cattle raised without growth promotants. 

“We don’t have the ability to track those stats and as far as I’ve been able to find out, nobody does.”


Ron Glaser, vice-president of corporate affairs and operations for Canada Beef, said it’s quite possible that there isn’t sufficient hormone free beef in Canada to meet A&W’s needs. However, since Canada exports a large chunk of its beef, several niche beef markets in the country might be underserved.

“When you hear one company say, ‘Well, we can’t source what we need,’ that might be true. But it’s a larger question of supply and demand in the marketplace and what is the market actually demanding,” he said. “Right now these are typically niche offerings… it represents a relatively small amount of total production. That is a reflection of demand.”

Looking forward, if demand for hormone-free beef intensifies, Canada’s cattle producers will adjust accordingly, Glaser said.

“The industry is pretty fluid in its ability to meet those needs. If producers feel they are being properly rewarded, they can change over fairly quickly to these other types of production systems… The market will eventually speak to producers.”

Teel said Canadian cattle ranchers are free to choose production practices that satisfy a particular marketing objective and food service companies are always developing campaigns to differentiate their product.


  • Sandra Burggraeve

    I am so very happy to find out that A&W meats are hormone and steroid free.
    I hope that you are able to get more Canadian beef that is able to supply your specific needs to make these better quality burgers.
    They are awesome.
    I also have to tell you that you have a wonderful outlet in Tillsonburg , Ontario.
    They are so welcoming and happy to see the customers, especially the one teller of whom I can not remember her name.
    Tonight , Christmas Eve, one of the men in the back was singing carols and other Christmas songs. The customers were treated as cherished friends.
    It is an awesome place to go eat and feel genuinely wanted and cared for.
    Good public relations !
    Thank you for coming back to our area.
    I remember enjoying going to A&W when I was in my 20’s and your back.
    YES !

    • Paul Yanko

      Just to be clear, Sandra, A & W’s burgers are not hormone and steroid free.

      All beef has a certain amount of naturally-occurring hormones and steroids – A & W’s marketing pitch is the beef they use is raised “without any added hormones or steroids.”

      Paul – WP web ed

      • Dayton

        So Paul, if the animals already produce hormones, steroids and medicated feed naturally why do we have to add more to the mix? I think A&W is on the right track. It’s the consumers who buy my products not some multinational chemical company. Besides 2013 is an economic lesson for everyone you can’t produce more product without taking less in the end. Doesn’t compute, never has.

        • Paul Yanko

          Not sure where you come up with the “and medicated feed” part, Dayton – those are your words, not mine… 😉

          I was merely pointing out that, what may be the basis for Sandra’s understanding of this situation (meat, steroids, hormones…), is flawed.

          Taking her statement at face value, she’s “thrilled” that A&W is going to sell hamburgers that are “hormone and steroid free.” Yet, the meat of EVERY animal contains naturally-occurring hormones and steroids.

          In my humble opinion, I think there are many people like Sandra who feel they have an “understanding” of many ag-related issues that is based upon a similarly flawed premise.

          More information, and a better informed public, is a good thing. Surely we can agree on that!

          • Dayton

            Paul, I threw in “medicated feed” as an equally important part omitted from the A&W promotion WP missed. However according to your argument Ben Johnson should have kept his gold medal, right? After all he was only injecting a few steroids which his body produced anyway.

    • drew

      I am with you on this one. We take our family to A + W exclusively for that very reason. Corporate chemical beef is definitely not good for you. We put a chemical free beef in the freezer each year and if we do eat out we make wise choices. It is tougher now but consumer demand will likely bring it around. It becomes hard to sell something that people don’t want but if you can make it the only choice short of going hungry it is a good business model, so I totally see why they defend it. Time will tell whether the consumers or the industrial side of things wins. The industry certainly has the money to launch a good dis/misinformation campaign against A + W. Like: “Ya know, their beef isn’t any less healthy or less safe than our beef, so there.”

  • Dayton
    • Paul Yanko

      Not sure the consumers are driving this move, Dayton. According to General Mills themselves, they hope “consumers may embrace” their decision:

      “It’s not about safety. Biotech seeds, also known as genetically modified seeds, have been approved by global food safety agencies and widely used by farmers in global food crops for almost 20 years,” the General Mills blog said.

      The Minneapolis-based company said it has begun using non-GM cornstarch and non-GM sugar in Cheerios, adding that oats, the primary ingredient, is a crop that is not grown from genetically modified seeds.

      The company hopes that “consumers may embrace” its decision to move away from GM ingredients.”

      Full story is here: http://www.producer.com/daily/general-mills-begins-selling-cheerios-without-gm-ingredients/

  • Dayton

    Do wish the WP journalists would get with the times. It’s not just about Shilling for the multinationals.


    • Paul Yanko


      We’ll continue our award-winning coverage of news of interest to our readers, and to the world of agriculture in general, even if it doesn’t always agree with your word view. Don’t shoot the messenger because you don’t like the story.

      • Dayton

        Well Paul, don’t know how many readers will be left when the farms all exceed 10,000 acres. Keep in mind there are always two versions of every story. The WP has served the producers of agricultural commodity’s faithfully for as long as I can remember but those numbers are dwindling. Because we farm organically WP has so little to offer other than the classifieds makes me wonder who’s subsidizing it. Now on the other hand there are millions of consumers who also have a stake in agriculture who have a concern and want it addressed. For example recently: http://www.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=269487. Agriculture as we know it has real acceptance problems. Why are we using hormones and medicated feed? Are we using more or less pesticides since GMO’s were introduced or not? There was a time when crops were sprayed once in the spring now? 3,4 or?

  • Dayton

    There was a time when Ducks Unlimited was 100% behind no till. Wonder what they will say once this study is completed? http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/pesticide-contaminating-prairie-wetlands-scientist-1.2482082

  • Eric Klein

    Raise black angus cattle, no implants, no vaccinations, would like more information on this situation.

    Thank you

  • Fred

    All of you must realize that the feedlots are where most cattle are given steroids and growth hormones. Ranchers simply can’t afford them and generally don’t want them. We inoculate our cattle for disease, just like humans and feed them grass, hay and grain when it’s cold, that’s it.
    It is at the feedlots where their profit is to put more pounds on the cattle from purchase to slaughter and they will go to any extreme, the feedlots are were they are feed un natural feed like sheep shit.
    So leave the Ranchers alone and what we need to do is put the feedlots under scrutiny. If A & W buy from feedlots they cannot guarantee steroid or hormone free. They should buy directly from the Ranchers and put the feedlots out of business.

  • Kurt

    So that means they will use runty diseased cattle.

  • Dayton

    So it seems traditional farmers still don’t get it. When the European market opens to Canadian beef guess what. Like A&W they will not import “Hormone” induced animals. So again the Organic beef market will intercept, why? Because most traditional farmers don’t get it. The consumers are buying their products not the industry who is selling the conception.


    The companies are branding to a small share of the market. Let’s just say if the general population was as concerned as we say we are on facebook, the organics market would have a better than 4.2% market share.
    GMO’s have been on the market for 20+ years, are rigorously tested prior to approval AND there have been 800+ studies showing they provide no deleterious effects to the population. At the same time, they can provide great benefits – golden rice is enriched with vitamin A – a boon in developing countries where blindness due to the deficiency is rampant – oh, yeah, but because if the anti GMO movement, children will continue to go blind… sorry kids.
    If you don’t want GMO’s, antibiotic or hormone use, you are certainly free to purchase all of your food organically.