So is A+W’s “Better Beef” campaign making your blood boil with its implicit insult to the way your cattle are raised?
Or is it making you salivate with the possibility of a new premium cattle market developing?
Is it making you think you might give A+W a try again, after years of neglecting it?
Is it making you wonder if the Teen Burgers are going to be “better?”
Or do you just not get why many in the farm community are getting their gitches in knots over this whole thing?
Me, I’m interested and amused in the issue – actually I’m fascinated – because it’s rather fun to have an issue outraging and upsetting lots of us that is based on fast food. (Yes, I know, this is deadly serious for producers of commercial cattle and beef, but I keep giggling because I can’t stop thinking of the Root Bear and that majorette from the 1970s commercial. And that dumb music.) Obviously the Better Beef campaign’s “Ethically and sustainably farmed,” line suggests regular cattle and beef might not be so, so there is legitimate reason for folks to sense an implicit insult to what they do.
It’s a fascinating test case of how much the fast food consumer cares about the nutritional content of fast food. I’ll bet all the major fast food providers are watching the launch and success/failure of this A+W campaign. A+W has admitted they will have to import some of the meat to supply their “Better” burgers, so it won’t be possible for every burger chain to immediately do a copycat move even if they want to, I imagine.
And will any of the substantial chains want to follow suit? How much do people really care about minor elements of cattle raising that don’t – according to most of the science we have – affect the healthiness of the meat?
To get a sense of how reasonable, sensible people view this issue, I did a non-scientific poll of a couple of the mothers of kids at my kids school, as we stood around by the playground allowing the young ones to frolic in these beautiful autumn days. The women I asked were smart, informed, sensible moms who take their kids’ health seriously, but aren’t flakey or given to extremist views on nutrition.
What surprised me was how remarkably similar their views were. Here’s how I’d sum them up:
1) They don’t tend to feed their kids burgers, fries and soft drinks because that is not a generally healthy choice for kids, so they’re not really likely to have to think about this much;
2) If they were going to buy their kids a burger meal at a fast food restaurant, they would consider the antibiotic-free, preservative-free element as a good thing compared to other burgers;
3) If they were going to buy their kids a fast food meal, they would probably be in a rush, so in that situation these minor differences probably wouldn’t mean that big a deal to them, and they wouldn’t drive across town to favour A+W over another burger chain;
4) Don’t other fast food chains do better salads? They would probably go to one of those if they had a choice.
And they wondered if anyone who’s a big fast food consumer really cares much at all about nutrition, health, methods of livestock-raising.
All good points, I thought, and I guess we’ll see how this campaign turns out and if other chains follow suit.
There’s no question that people today care much more about the nutritional content of the food they eat and the way the livestock were raised. But whether that applies to meals of greasy burgers, French fries and soft drinks is a fascinating question we’re going to get to watch be answered.
Is there a market there? Watch and find out.