Do you like burgers? I do and am at a loss at the rage of farmers regarding the burger world and some of their advertising campaigns. I was asked about this recently and in response I advised that a consequence of a society of privilege is choice. I believe choice is a measurement of economic vitality, particularly in the middle class.
When folks make decisions at the fast-food counter it is not going to be driven by a farmer’s emotional response to an ad, incentive or program. Regardless of the personal feelings of the men and women who own cows — consumers will buy largely on convenience, cost and most certainly on taste. The recent research shows that taste is still king in the quest for a great eating experience.
Part of that taste experience is fresh product and the commitment to fresh Canadian veggies, potatoes, bread, eggs and most things in between makes decision-making easier for the person ordering on the other side of the counter. It is an amazing journey to go through both websites and note the Canadian food used by the two burger chains. There is a lot of commitment in buying Canadian because the volume of use is staggering and a constant supply is so critical to customer satisfaction.
People will choose to buy from a place of core values and beliefs and yet sometimes they are just hungry and tired and want to know they can eat a burger and be safe in that choice. The beef producers have to give them a little more credit and not drive them away with negative comments. Talking publicly about one personal beef over another may result in an alternate response — ordering a chicken burger. The reality is that there is a ton of work behind the scenes to secure consumer loyalty and as both companies are pushing beef — the beef industry should not be pushing back.
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Beef producers have a choice to provide beef for either burger company. Farms and ranches also have a choice to be organic or natural or sell to a domestic butcher or grocery. They have a choice to work with others to create marketing strategies and new markets or to sell directly to an export market based on the commitment to production protocols. Farmers have a choice to leave land for future generations or to sell it. This is Canada and these choices are for everyone. There is no right or wrong decisions and personal values are reflected in actions.
My concern is that the industry is pushing towards conformity — a sameness that poisons the tall poppy or the entrepreneur. This is the beginning of the end to creative thinking and unique deliverables. And there is a world of difference between the outcomes of a monoculture of conformity and the expression of free enterprise, a principle that the Canadian beef industry was built on.
I think of those I have met and shared a meal with who do not have our range of choice. After nearly 80 meals of rice and beans — I recall not really caring where the meat offered came from just as long as it was cooked! It is often overwhelming to come home from travel to the obscene amount of abundance that Canadians take for granted. There are many folks in the world who have choice too — blue shirt or blue shirt — walk five miles for water or walk five miles for water — eat cassava boiled or eat cassava boiled — stand in line for bread or stand in line for bread. Simple choices. Their problems are few, and greater in the context of their lives.
If they could see those in the Canadian beef industry fighting it out on the streets over an ad campaign or from the other side, the fear of regulation by a food company, what do you think their impression might be? I am certain they would be happy with either burger, grateful in fact.
Just to be clear, the Canadian beef industry is just part of the Canadian food scene. Canada is the world leader in food waste at 40 per cent and we pay the least for food. Canadians eat $6.8 billion more of imported processed or value-added food than we export and we continue to ship 60 per cent of all our food out of country for further processing before bringing it back again. Food processing in Canada is a greater contributor to GDP than oil and gas, employs more people than manufacturing and beef remains the weakest point in all processing. Like wheat that goes to Italy, Canadian cattlemen still ship live cattle, not beef, to the U.S.
When it comes to offering a menu, it is up to food companies to respond to the expressed desires and needs of their clientele. It may offend a producer, but there are more customers than there are cattlemen and the idea is to keep customers coming through the door. As an industry, Canadian beef leaders and producers need to move beyond the stale argument to create opportunities for further value adding within the country and promote the continuous support of unique opportunities to our youth throughout the beef industry. There are good farmers and good companies both doing great things for agriculture.
To live in Canada is to live in a society of privilege. Agriculture contributes and keeps our rural communities alive and sets the stage for our future generations. At the end of the day the beef industry prospers and these long-standing farms and communities give our children something very special, it gives them choice.
Contact Brenda through her website. All rights reserved. Brenda Schoepp