University wrong to accept A&W donation

On Dec.1 the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Agriculture and Bioresources announced a $5 million donation from A&W to go toward the Livestock and Forage Centre of Excellence.

A&W has demonstrated through its fear-based marketing campaign that it is no friend to agriculture or science.

You know the one. The guy in the orange bread truck stops and asks people what they think of their burger and then preys on their lack of knowledge to make them believe A&W burgers are somehow better or safer than the rest.

Let’s ignore the laughable notion that any burger is good for us and focus on the two elements that argue against the college accepting this money: science and sustain-ability.

In June 2014 at the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association convention in Moose Jaw, Sask., Trish Sahlstrom, A&W’s vice-president of purchasing and distribution, summed it up when she said: “It’s not our job to educate consumers.”

A&W understands that an uneducated consumer is the best kind of consumer.

It’s easy to accept how a cynical fast-food company could think that way, but it is hard to understand why the College of Agriculture and Bioresources would lend its considerable credibility to A&W’s marketing campaign.

If the college looked to sell out its principles, I would have hoped for a higher selling price.

For A&W, the donation is about marketing. Even worse, it’s about marketing foreign beef.

A&W has repeatedly refused to provide data on how much of the beef sold in Canadian restaurants is sourced in Canada.

It’s likely well over 90 percent imported from Australia and the United States and it’s A&W’s right to keep the number secret. It is a private company.

What isn’t right is that A&W continues to insinuate that there is something superior about its imported beef compared to locally grown beef because it doesn’t buy beef that has been raised with artificial growth hormones.

There is no science to support that claim.

Farming in the 21st century is a huge success thanks to adoption of modern technology, which often results from the efforts of research universities.

In our lifetimes, we have seen dramatic increases in farm efficiency on any measure.

A&W’s anti-hormone message would turn the clock back to the 1950s.

According to Alberta Beef Producers, for farmers and ranchers to produce the same tonnage of beef they do today without hormones would require:

  • 12 percent more cattle
  • 10 percent more land
  • 11 percent more feed
  • four percent more water
  • seven percent more fuel

As well, it would generate 10 percent more greenhouse gasses.

On top of that, Alberta Beef Producers estimates cattle prices would need to be eight percent higher than they are today to match today’s output.

Canadian beef is safe, thanks in part to ongoing research done at universities like the U of S.

The Canadian beef industry is part of a larger agricultural success story. That story is about efficiency and sustainability.

Mary Buhr, dean of the College of Agriculture and Bioresources, knows this but accepted A&W’s blood money anyway.

That’s why I sent her the following terse message immediately after learning about A&W’s “donation”: “I’m so disgusted tonight, Mary, I don’t even know where to begin. I’m ashamed to admit I’m an alumnus of the college.

“You have to realize that you have taken blood money. A&W is not a friend of science or agriculture. Shame on you.”

Contact Mary if you want to express your opinion of her action.

Bob Evans is a consulting agrologist living in east-central Saskatchewan and a graduate of the U of S, Class of 1979.

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  • richard

    I agree with you Bob that the college of Agriculture should not endorse corporate sponsorship…… but of course that would also include Monsanto, Bayer, BASF, and on and on til the cows come home as it were……..In case of A&W it is a market driven approach to consumer interest in more naturally derived food products…… If it is your fundamental belief that status quo beef production is where its at, why don’t you organize and go into, I dunno, Burger King and promote the ractopamine, zilmax, crowded paddock antibiotic burger……Oh that’s right, theyre already doing that… kinda not so successfully…….If the ninety nine cent greaseball burger is your benchmark for haute cuisine, youre probably gonna be outraged for a long long time…….Because a food system where no one makes any money except the hospitals……is a pretty sad indictment on the state of human evolution…..And more fear loathing and envy of those who dare to disrupt status quo ignorance is unlikely to browbeat the jolly guy in the orange van into submission……but I could be wrong?

    • Bob Evans

      Science vs fear – that’s the difference between Monsanto et al and A&W. I’ll take the science every time. The Canadian food system is among the safest in the world. If you choose to eat fast food there is no reason to buy importaburgers.

      • Harold

        A&W is placing their money into science; what do you think the U of S is: an Advertising Agency? You know that it is science VS fear…How? Express the calm one feels when consuming extra hormones and the fear one has when consuming less hormones and show me where it exists in the microscope? Science VS Fear eh? What about science VS science – could it ever be that? No? If you say so. You say that “the Canadian food system is among the safest in the world” and I was wondering if that comes with a cow, dish, spoon, and a moon to jump over to complete the little ditty? I see hospitals spilling over the top with sickness and longer waiting periods and people with sacks of pharmaceutical drugs and products to get them through a single day and I see the same sickness in other countries. I for one don’t need to be told that Canadian food, passed off as food, by the “Canadian food system” is garbage and is not fit for human consumption because I know of the Ingredients that they place into their so called food. The only claim that there is to the Canadian safety of food is that you don’t drop dead immediately after consuming it; sometimes it takes years to drop dead. By the way, has your taken science eliminated cancer by finding the cause yet? they know all about it yes? We are all afraid of cancer yes? A&W too yes? Same fear yes?
        Fear VS science is an illusion delusion led by the industry seeking a free rein without any accountability. The Industry has the fear of the publics unacceptance; the public does not have that fear.

        • Bob Evans

          I know that A&W trades in fear. I know that A&W is on the record as saying that they prefer uneducated consumers. I know that the U of S had options and chose this one.

          • Harold

            … Foremost, a company does not have to go “on the record” to prefer, and to market directly to an uneducated public; they all prefer it (including Monsanto, Dow, Pharmaceutical, and every other chemical corporation seducing the public) because the public is more susceptible to corporate indoctrination and propaganda. (a simple TV ad can explain this fully and so can your garbage can- of the newly educated) An educated consumer is a market place in which all industries fear and to which they all fight fiercely against. Typically, it seems to anger the industry that the consumer has the ability of freely choosing, and that includes the freedom to make and live by their own so called “mistakes” or to live in the lifestyle of their own free choosing. But guess what; it is their money – and not industries, and not yours. Typically Industry despises that the public have that freedom and they fear it, because by a whim only, the public can cause the crashing of any industry. The industries, in retaliation to the public and their freedom of choice have in a betrayal, hijacked the dictionary and have added to the words of the dictionary a new corporate meaning to hide from the public the ingredients in the foods that the consumers are eating. You have inappropriately placed the “fear” upon the public who have no concern, when in fact it is the industry that have the most to lose and has the most to fear from complete industry disclosure and contradicting scientific discoveries Do you honestly think that Industry is fearless and the public with the freedom of choice and their money are fearful? Is there a true phobia in the public just because the profit based industry thinks so? Is A&W and McDonalds’ and the Supermarkets offering to their customers sedatives when they walk through the doors to counteract the public’s phobic fear? Is A&W injecting poison into their burgers? Contrary to what you are saying, A&W is selling a freedom of choice to the public and acceptance to their product is the only way that this industry can move forward in their quest. The sales (consumer’s free choice) of the product speak in A&W’s boardroom and the 5 million dollar donation speaks for itself. Do you expect me to believe that your limited three talking points are the summery representing the full scope of the matter? Explain fully why you FEAR the U of S options and choice and why you have FEAR of the outcome and I do not. Exactly what disaster is about to occur, and from this disaster how will the public be mistreated and sickened by it? Less added hormones are whose fear; is it my fear? It seems to me that you have your own “trades in fear”, but sorry, I’m not in the market to adopt your unfounded “fear” and unfounded thoughts regarding the relevancy of “fear” to “science”.

          • ed

            They made a great choice. Beats money from the “legal” illicit drug trade.

      • ed

        Actually that is not true. We have some of the biggest health care costs of any nation on our globe.

    • Bob Evans

      Its very simple – science vs fear. Monsanto et al come down on the side of science – A&W uses fear to sell foreign beef. Canada’s food system and Canadian beef are among the safest in the world. If you want to eat fast food hamburgers there’s no need to make them importaburgers.

      • richard

        Thank you, everythings illuminated now…… So who is fear and who is science? Because when I think of fear, I think of fear of weeds, insects and disease…. fear of your what neighbors think of you, fear of markets, fear of failure…. fear of keeping up with the joneses, fear of the joneses, and fear of not feeding the planet illusion…..All of these force fed to growers by a multi year, multi billion dollar barrage of agribiz media shibboleths….. every one designed to keep each and every producer in a perpetual state of inadequacy….. Which is why for twenty years the western world has out produced any semblance of market reality and is now hog tied to a hundred billion of USD$ welfare to sustain its……FEAR… But you can call it science if it eases your pain…. Your fear of A&W’s success is sadly nothing more than the saddest fear of all …. fear of change….. happy holidays everyone

      • Dayton

        There’s a simple solution. Grow Canadian beef raised without the use of antibiotics and added hormones after all the consumer is always right. Even if you and the multinationals don’t think so.

        • old grouchy

          So the consumer is ALWAYS right – – – – what do you do when they’re wrong?

          • Dayton

            Always keep in mind who writes the pay check…..

          • Harold

            What do I do – if I think that I am right – and I think that you are wrong – but you are the one who is holding the money in your hands? How do I profit in all of my “rightness” if you the “wrongness” go elsewhere with all of your money to get what you want in “wrongness” from someone who views your “wrongness” as “rightness”? The answer is a no-brainer and is the meaning of ” the customer is always right”. This is so simple that I can’t understand why this has escaped you. The only time that a customer is ever wrong is when the product does not exist on the planet or the product cannot be created. Monsanto was a customer ($$$$) who wanted the invention of GMO; was the customer (Monsanto) wrong? A customer wants beef raised without the use of antibiotics and added hormones; Is the customer wrong because the product never existed before and the product is impossible to duplicate? If you are in the business of making money and you are selling Beef and the customer wants Elk – is the customer wrong, or in the business of making money you are wrong – for not having elk and beef to satisfy both of your customers? If you think that in the business of making money you can go against the will of the customer then the only person that is wrong is you and your bank account will surely show it. In a free and democratic society, what the customer wants – is your problem to resolve and not the customers. Perhaps you would rather live in a society ruled by a Dictator whereby you will always be arbitrarily right following the Dictators rule of law and the customer is always wrong. What are interesting to me are the people who don’t understand the freedom that Canada has to offer so at every turn they set out to destroy it in their dictatorial nature and fashions. As a society of the free, we are in sleep mode and we haven’t woken up to the fact that political correctness is the will of the government and the will of government over the people – is a dictatorship. It doesn’t surprise me that most Canadians who are in the sleep mode are just as dictatorial and fashionable as their own government has groomed them because that is all that they have ever known and were born into. Do you, old grouchy, wish to dictate to your customer your “rightness” as your government now does or will you allow the customer the freedom of their own choice as is demonstrated in a free and democratic society and is the founding principles of Canada; freedom is not free and it comes with a burden to your energy and also the burden of stepping aside in public spaces to allow another the ability to freely pass by unharmed.
            Currently in our obedience to political correctness we are all divided into tiny little fractions and each little fraction is headed by a dictator demanding obedience. In our political correctness – which is truly political stupidity – we a led by the idiot to believe that our own family is somewhat sane and every other family untrustworthy and is to be feared unless they also obey the dictates of the dictator who rules our little fraction. In political correctness stupidity, the idiot has led us to believe that fractions are the same as a whole (Unity) much like a lemon wedge or lemon zest is the whole lemon speaking as one. The government has divided us to conquer us and into the smallest of fractions is to the government’s success leading us further into adopting the illusion that the government is more important than we are and therefore we blindly shout out to government to save us, yet stupidly a politician doesn’t know enough to even save himself. We should never loose sight of the truth that men and women are truly judged by what they do or by what they have done – and not by what they say (you will know them by their actions) – but in political correctness – you are judged by what you say – and not judged by what you have done. (no visible accomplishment or no transparency – no possible failure) If we believe that we are all chaotic then by default the government appears to be sound. We know the government is chaotic so by default we all along have been sound. Whose messages have been confounding us and attacking our individual consciousness; political correctness? So old grouchy, your question does lead me to thought and although I have not told you what to do, here again is your own question: “what do you do when they’re wrong?

          • ed

            There are some consumers among us that wrongly chose real illicit street drugs, that sadly doesn’t always go well if you have been paying attention.

        • ed

          Correct, and many are switching to that, thanks to A&W leading the way.

      • ed

        Canadian beef is some of the most laced in the world. To compete in a world market when we in Canada experience so many days with feeder cattle in frigid feedlots with nearly no gain it is necessary to do the “Ben Johnson” cheat on it, or you will never win.

    • Harold

      May I add to your argument the following: our pets are eating our food and industry prepared foods as well and in increasing numbers they too require a $hospital$ now. They now have diabetes, cancers, and a whole host of similar human health problems.
      I agree; it “is a pretty sad indictment on the state of human evolution”. The proper stewardship of today is the event of having a hospital in the waiting for your arrival and your insurance plan fully paid and up to date. Everything is finger licking and paw licking good; there is no question about that. Unfortunately they never claim that their foods are 100% nutrition and that is because they aren’t; only “great taste” and “fun” with a vitamin pill added into the slew of the chemical Corps non-food flavor, texture, and longevity additives of no nutritional value. A chemical paste with a chemically treated cherry on top and that is what we get. YUM. Now you can have glyphosate with that for some extra added value. I’m sure that our pets are getting their fair corporate share.
      One final thought: if the “cream off the top” of the universities are scooped up by the corporate for the purpose of creating massive and obscene corporate wealth, who then should be funding the entire University? Taxpayers? Students? If we gave the Corporate Elite the Bill that they actually deserved, they wouldn’t be so rich and powerful and controlling after all, would they? The Elite are taking our money out of both of our hands and placing it into their own pockets and we have been none the wiser but have become very much poorer.
      Now it seems apparent that the corporate cry baby has taken exception to the open doors of the University and the invitation extended to the “jolly guy in the orange van”. Apparently the “jolly guy” with 5 million dollars can destroy the entire University and what it now stands for; is that how science works these days?

      • richard

        …..the jolly guy could probably get by with eating a little less of the merch…….if you know what I mean govnah? But I digress…..

        • Harold

          I assume that your intent was to poke some fun and add a little humor, but that placed aside for a moment if I may, I can say that one can gather the same physique without consuming any of the merchandise that A&W is offering; even the “jolly guy”. Even a vegetarian can become overweight and surely you have met a few of them by now. If one were to envision the exercise treadmill and the plates of food in the hand of the user who is eating it while trying to “run it off”, the food that they were consuming would seem very self-defeating. For an example, a person running on a treadmill is eating a piece of cake, cookies, and ice cream, and washing it all down with a sugary soft drink in contrast to a user “running off” a bowl of rice and a glass of water. One plate is fuel and the other is not and we know where nonfuel is stored in the body and the diseases that they cause.

    • ed

      You are not wrong, and you know that. A&W could probably at this point put a cash donation box out for university reasearch donations that would go to safer food development and they would have to dump it several times a day. Monsanto, not so much.

  • Harold

    It is a very interesting concept that the Author has. If you have two cows standing side by side it seems that the inoculated one has somehow been brought to the future; why is the drug and tamper free Cow still here? It seems that the cow still here “shames” Bob and A&W petting it angers Bob. Yes, it seems that industry pharmaceuticals are a Time-Machine and to be living in today all life forms have to be chocked full of the stuff, altered, genetically modified, and a whole host of other things, to remain in this era or risk being sent back to the past. (1950) I ate the beef of that era (far superior) and somehow Bob believes that I was sickened by it – yet here I am. The funny thing is, is that I have never seen how the industry can travel back in time to bring these animals forward to now time. I wonder how a now time moose and deer got here without the benefit of pharmaceutical time travel. Perhaps Bob believes that all Nature is owing to the existence of the U of S and that we all got here by their assembly. Bob says that a Burger made from Canadian beef is laughable if considered good for your health, and then condemns A&W’s burger – hormone free – as being worse. Interesting; ” laughable” to “I’m so disgusted” yet there was no contrast, and not to mention his other terms such as “fear-based marketing”, “cynical fast-food company” , “blood money”, and the topper – “I’m ashamed to admit I’m an alumnus of the college” – all because of a A&W donation? (drama much?)I wonder how much of a education I would need to determine for myself that a fast food restaurant “is not a friend of science or agriculture” but they are a friend to quality food and consumer demands? It is truly a no brainer that Industry tries to “educate” the public into accepting the purchase of their product. Does what you see on TV ads escape you Bob? Is KFC a “friend” of Science and Agriculture Bob? If KFC made a million dollar donation to the U of S would you be equally as angry Bob? Is it only Monsanto/Bayer, Dow, Syngenta, and the Drug corporation are the only ones who are allowed to contribute money to the U of S Bob? Who does chemical and hormone free demand really upset – is it you Bob; do I need to go and think too deeply about this Bob? If A&W wanted to source all of their hormone free Beef from Canada, is their enough supply? Is there enough supply in Canada if all restaurants do the same? What happens to A&W’s Canadian supply if all restaurants get on board with A&W – do you see the noose – do you see A&W’s threat if they become successful Bob? If there is a shortage in Canada – where should A&W put their Donations?
    Sorry Bob, I cannot insult my own intelligence enough, to Call Mary Buhr, dean of the College of Agriculture and Bio-resources, to pass along your message.

    • Greg Van Luven

      So true

  • Kissing optional

    I like to see balance in journalism
    WP likes to promote a one sided barrage of pro pharma litany of opinion propagandists that buys advertising.
    That is my opinion of the opinions section
    At least when I’m doing research, the authors that make WP opinion section are names I can cull without reservation, as their opinions never have any fact data to accompany them.
    For instance
    Calling A&W’s consumer demand business decision ‘fear-based’ in an attempt to appeal to ‘Brad Wall’ the product, is as pathetic as promoting the eight year old girls development of breasts from the hormone laced chicken and cow meat, which is in fact what that alternative adulteration of the beast actually is

    By the way bob, after reading this tripe, I suspect the UofS is the one most embarrassed, embarrassing that it failed to educate you.

    • richard

      madamoiselle, you bring the balance in journalism you seek… may truth never find you tongue tied and twisted…….

    • Alberto13646

      ” as pathetic as promoting the eight year old girls development of breasts
      from the hormone laced chicken and cow meat, which is in fact what that
      alternative adulteration of the beast actually is…” There is pathos here alright, but it is more in this absurd assertion. Cows from whence we get our hamburger, do not get ralgro in their entire lives.

    • Harold

      We are awash in fake biased news compounded by the fact that the major news corps are all owned by four families with the exception of CBC, the fifth, which is government funded and promotes government propaganda. We only hear what the five wish us to hear and not what we want or need to hear. What you are saying is what I am saying through discovery and that is that in Canada there exists a major news blackout which leads Canadians into a very false sense of our security. What we truly need to know is not told and what is truly going on in the world is non-existent or is whitewashed. We have a globe of human activity, political and etc. and a Country full of activity, political and so forth and yet sports to the very smallest in details takes up the lion’s share of the news. Even the dedicated news programs are filled with mindless questions and mindless responses and heavily censored and in the end they combined do not reveal anything that truly matters. Something that truly matters gathers a decisive response and action but when it fails to do so it creates indifference and is a nothing burger. The fact that we listen to the news and then expect that the government will do something is the event of listening to a nothing burger. The days of independent news is gone and it happened before our eyes when all media was bought up by the corporate four and now the Four control everything that Canadians hear. When the “average joe commenter” can present more information than the “news” or what is written in the news this certainly speaks for itself.
      Your comment gave me further interest when you mentioned breasts because in my generation and youth (50’s) the girls did not develop breasts as early as they do today and more so the girls when they did were much more flat-chest and not so busty as they are today. Also in my youth there were not any boys or teen boys or young adult boys who developed “man tits” unless they were overweight in the first place. (Swimming was one of my favorite past times so I’ve seen a pool or two and being a focused boy/male – if you know what I mean) What the Industry has done to the breasts and mammary glands of the animals that we consume has certainly had a corresponding impact on humans. Of course the Industry in denial would likely claim that we evolved from the apes so this event has only been part of our “natural” evolvement much like breast implants are. Kids sure love their chicken nuggets and chocolate milk – don’t they – but beef not so much until much older.

      • ed

        Breast cancer is rampant because of this and can kill in less than a year after diagnosis. That is not good. Good reason to go to A&W however.

        • Harold

          I cannot be certain that Beef is causing breast cancer only because there are many chemicals that women are warned not to consume when they are breast feeding. It stands to reason that those same chemicals affect the breast when they are not breast-feeding. If those chemicals harm the fetus or the baby then what use do they have to any human being? There are also topical cosmetics that contain questionable and hidden chemicals and they are also absorbed into the fatty tissue and enter the blood stream; they are not nutrition and they “seek” a pathway. Air fresheners are not air fresheners they are unknown chemicals and they enter into the body as you breathe; they are not nutrition and thereafter “seek” a pathway. Toothpaste comes with a warning to immediately seek medical attention if it gets accidently swallowed; what happens with the residual, does it just evaporate or get swallowed? Further to this, cancer is one thing regardless of where is it found in the human body. A cancer cell is a cancer cell and all are exactly the same and to where the cells amass a location is named; there are many locations (Organs) for this cell to amass. In other words, a brain cancer cell is identically the same Cell as is a bone cancer cell, only the location is different and the location is relative to the delivery of the cause, whether it be through the organ of the skin, breathing, or food, each foreign chemical consumed seeks a pathway much like a stream to a lake and the Lake an organ and skin cancer a dry river bed, the sun has no problem boiling a chemical but keeps the water cool. A cell much like a duck on a pond will die if the water that surrounds it is polluted. (a cell can’t fly away) Nonetheless, the sake of eating “added hormone free Beef” is for the sake of eating “added hormone free beef” and a person doesn’t have to eat something just because the Industry tells them to and that freedom they despise and they set out to kill your inner conscience regarding the matter and it serves to them their profits if they succeed. Like you, I laugh at them and that is another thing that they do not have control over and also despise so I expect their little tantrums and rudeness in their meaningless attempt to change my laughter into anger to which I give to them no power. Any time that I have to disrespect myself to give them respect I know that a whole wagon full of BS is coming my way. Thanks for your comment.

  • Greg Van Luven

    Kind of getting tiered of all the whining about A&W. So there is a different way to raise beef, what’s the harm. It does not bring down price, it’s a free market, priced in the Futures. There has been thousands of cattle registered for hormone free export to Europe so they will be sourcing Canadian soon. Its embarrassing.

  • Not your mom

    Bob needs to get facts straight! A&W is guilty of one thing…poor marketing…I work within this industry of natural meat products…that not only supply A&W but many fine restaurants that flaunt angus beef! It truly is a superior product…not because it’s truly hormone free and raised by regulated handling and feed but because when you eat an A&W burger, your eating a yearling!! Competitive fast food use cull cows and of course it’s antibiotic free but that’s it! Old cows for the most part and if they’re put through feedlots usually hormone implanted..o well! Now let’s address the supply problem! It’s a growth factor! Producers get paid prime prices for providing natural calves (which entailes good record keeping more than anything) still vaccinated I may add as it helps reduce fallout or treated animals. The problem is finding feedlots that can provide the animal care and feed regulations….desperately producers are trying to get on board but unless we have feedlots that can finish them they are stuck waiting but the restaurants can’t wait and have to bring it in….we, through education to up and coming operators and seeing the demand is there will need to catch up! That’s not A&W fault and I thank them for their contributions but smarten up with your marketing!

  • Dayton

    Don’t get it. In the 80’s and 90’s all we heard from the experts was “DIVERSIFY”. So now those who did diversify into using less inputs with a higher “NET” return has caused the so called experts to be up in arms….


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