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A+W Canada tightens beef sourcing requirements

Beef suppliers must use tracking systems, no steroids or hormones

Canada's second-biggest burger chain has launched a new publicity campaign based on a new policy of sourcing beef only from cattle raised without steroids or hormones.

Vancouver-based A+W Canada announced its "Better Beef" campaign Monday, in which it declares all burgers sold at its 790 restaurants across Canada "are now made with beef that has been raised without any added steroids or hormones and contains no added preservatives or additives."

Billing the company as the first burger chain in Canada to adopt such a policy, Paul Hollands, CEO of A+W Food Services of Canada, said in a release Monday that the company has "sourced the beef from select ranches that are at the leading edge of sustainable practices."

A+W on Monday cited studies it commissioned with research firm QRI International, to gauge consumer response to the "Better Beef" concept.

"The response has been overwhelmingly positive, with 89 per cent of burger eaters reporting they are impressed and interested that A+W is serving beef raised without added hormones or steroids," QRI's Andrew Spicer said in A+W's release. "They see better beef as more natural and they feel good about how the beef has been raised."

The income fund which operates the A+W Canadian chain had said in its second-quarter report in June it planned a strategic initiative to "enhance A+W's reputation as having a clearly superior burger," coupled with an "extensive re-imaging program to modernize and enhance the appeal of existing restaurants."

The fund booked net income of $3.03 million for 2012 on $7.75 million in royalty income, based on $258.43 million in sales by the restaurants in its royalty pool.

On its Better Beef website, the company profiles three ranches -- one each in Canada, the U.S. and Australia -- including the Kotelko family's Spring Creek Ranch, an Angus-based cattle and beef company at Vegreville, Alta.

The chain said its chosen suppliers all offer "rigorous verification systems to track the cattle, their feed and their care to ensure the beef meets A+W's strict specifications."

"All of our cattle are custom-raised without added hormones or steroids. They spend most of their days on the prairie and grass," Spring Creek's Kirstin Kotelko said in the company's release. "We do everything with integrity, we're proud to do what we do and we hope Canadians enjoy the results."

The company also bills its beef as free of antibiotics and based on "quality Angus genetics." Other customers for Spring Creek beef have included Calgary Co-op, Sobeys and, for its in-store Open Nature beef brand, Safeway.

"Progressive"

A+W, on its site, cited the Kotelkos' provincial and national awards for "progressive innovation in environmental stewardship," such as the company's Growing Power biorefinery, processing grain for feed and ethanol and cattle manure and other wastes for electricity.

Its awards include the 2001 Feedlot Environmental Stewardship Award from the Canadian Cattlemen's Association for its Highland Feeders operation; the 2005 Growing Alberta Leadership Award for Environmental Stewardship; and the environmental stewardship award in 1997 from the Alberta Cattle Commission, now Alberta Beef Producers.

Spring Creek also includes a network of Angus-based ranchers with similar policies on hormones and antibiotics and requires its partner ranchers' cattle to be age-verified with the Canadian Cattle Identifcation Agency.

A+W's featured U.S. supplier for the campaign is Montana-based Meyer Natural Foods, billed as "the only major beef company in North America to receive the 'Certified Humane' designation from the Humane Farm Animal Care program."

The Australian supplier, Teys Australia, is noted for its Grasslands cattle, "free to roam and graze with access to fresh water and natural grass." -- AGCanada.com Network



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