Earls locks in Canadian beef supplies

Earls president Mo Jessa (r) and Stan Carscallen of White Moose Ranch meet at Priddis, Alta. (Earls.ca)

Vancouver-based dining chain Earls has enlisted a handful of Canadian ranchers and processors to supply beef to about half its stores while matching its criteria for animal care and “ethical farming practices.”

The move comes about six weeks after Earls retreated from a plan to source its beef from Creekstone Farms, choosing the Kansas company from beef suppliers following the U.S.-based Certified Humane animal welfare certification program.

Facing an uproar from consumers and ranchers, the chain said it would instead seek out Canadian suppliers who could provide beef “raised without the use of steroids, antibiotics or added hormones, while adhering to a standardized auditing process for ethical farming practices.”

The company on Wednesday said it will now be able to provide Canadian beef meeting its criteria for its 24 restaurants in Alberta and three in Saskatchewan, and will offer discounts on steaks and burgers at those stores until June 29.

The company announced its “new partnerships” with Vegreville, Alta.-based Spring Creek Ranch — which will supply Aspen Ridge Farms, a brand of meat packer JBS following the Certified Humane program — and Etobicoke, Ont.-based Beretta Family Farms, certified by Texas-based Global Animal Partnership.

Earls, in a release, also named White Moose Ranch, a beef operation at Priddis, Alta., as a “possible future” partner.

“We’ve been raising our cattle to meet the standards that Earls has been seeking because we believe it’s in the best interest of the animal as well as the consumer, so we’re happy that Earls has made this type of farming a priority in how they source their beef,” Kirstin Kotelko of Spring Creek said in Earls’ release.

Spring Creek became known in 2013 as the Canadian face for the suppliers to Canadian burger chain A+W, when that company publicly pledged to serve beef raised without the use of hormones or steroids.

“Earls has confirmed their loyalty to Canadian beef producers and we look forward to a long-term relationship in providing the very best our industry has to offer each and every time,” Canada Beef president Rob Meijer said in Earls’ release Wednesday.

Alberta Beef Producers chairman Bob Lowe of Nanton, Alta., in the same release, said the producer organization has been working with Earls “to identify new partner ranchers that meet Earls’ criteria for their customers and market segment.”

The company credited Meijer and Lowe as being “instrumental in helping us find our way back to Canadian beef that meets our criteria.”

The company didn’t say in its release Wednesday exactly who will now supply steaks and ground beef for its 28 other Canadian restaurants, which include three in Winnipeg, five in southern Ontario and 20 in British Columbia.

However, the company said on its site it is “developing relationships with new ranchers and suppliers all the time. And they want to work with us over the long term as we build our supply for all of our restaurants across Canada.”

In the meantime, however, the company reiterated it will still serve “consciously sourced beef in every one of our restaurants.”

Earls, on its website, noted it has “made a very public commitment” to serve Canadian Beef,” but also to offer its customers beef raised without antibiotics, steroids, or added hormones and “consistently audited by a third party” for animal welfare.

“We know Canadian cattle are raised with care and attention on the ranch,” the company said, but “humane audits look every year at the full cycle from the ranch to feedlots and the slaughtering process. We believe these audits, which are somewhat new to the industry, are good things.” — AGCanada.com Network

CLARIFICATION, June 22, 2016: A previous version of this article put the number of Earls restaurants in Alberta at 25. The Bankers Hall location in Calgary (315 Eighth Ave. SW) was closed effective Jan. 1 for renovations and is expected to reopen later this month as a “brand new Earls concept,” which for now leaves the number of Alberta stores at 24.

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