(This article is part of my Culture of Fear series, which exposes different businesses, restaurants, and people that choose to spread lies and misconceptions about farmers in order to further their agenda or make a buck.)
A&W Canada is the latest restaurant to join in the culture of fear marketing trend. Admittedly, I’ve never been to an A&W, let alone the Canadian version. But the chain has decided to drum up sales by promoting their new burgers as raised without any added hormones, antibiotics, or steroids.
|Screen shot from A&W Canada’s website.|
The implication, of course, is that if you eat a burger somewhere else you’re consuming hormones, antibiotics, and steroids. US farmers are pumping their meat products full of these three horrible things in order to make a quick buck. Not to mention the other meat producers are ruining the environment with their unsustainable methods. After all, isn’t it all about the profit margin?
|Except, if you really cared about people and the environment,
you would embrace modern agriculture. Oh, and you wouldn’t tell
Buy burgers from somewhere else and that place isn’t doing right by you. They’re doing something wrong. So, unless they’re going to select their ranches as carefully as A&W select theirs, you’re going to get a nasty product.
First, as to the antibiotic use. While A&W is quick to tell you their farmers only use antibiotics when an animal gets sick, they conveniently forget to tell you that’s when all farmers use antibiotics. We don’t want germs to become resistant to the medicines that we have available either, so we’re interested in making sure we use it judiciously. But we won’t just let our sick animals suffer and spread the illness to other animals. Usually, a vet is involved in this process. It isn’t just willy nilly antibiotic time!
Second, let’s talk about hormones and steroids. Let’s first clear the air by explaining that hormones and steroids refer to the same thing. But, hey, it sounds scary when you use both terms in the same advertisement; right?
And don’t forget — everything has hormones. Even plants. Doesn’t sound as sensational to say your lettuce is produced without hormones-added; right? Because there isn’t an element of fear there.
So, why do farmers even use hormones?
In Canada and the U.S., an animal can be given a hormone (also called growth promotant) early on. Growth promtants improve the animal’s ability to process the food they eat into muscle tissue. It works via a tiny implant placed under the skin of the ear. These are slow-release products that last about 180 days, but are used long before (at least 200 days) an animal heads to market. Why do it? With the help of hormones already circulating in all of us, these animals convert their food into muscle more efficiently — it means less crops are needed to feed that animal and therefore less manure is produced. (Source: Real Agriculture)
The hormones come in a little chip that is implanted in the animal’s ear and slowly released for up to 180 days. However, by the time the meat makes it to market, any trace of the hormones in the meat is gone.
As usual, the FDA oversees the use of hormones in animal agriculture. According to their website:
Some of the approved drugs are synthetic versions of the natural hormones, such as trenbolone acetate and zeranol. Just like the natural hormone implants, before FDA approved these drugs, FDA required extensive toxicological testing in animals to determine safe levels in the animal products that we eat (edible tissue). Furthermore, FDA required that the manufacturers demonstrate that the amount of hormone left in each edible tissue after treatment is below the appropriate safe level. As described above, a safe level is a level which would be expected to have no effect in humans.
No steroid hormones are approved for growth purposes in dairy cattle, veal calves, pigs, or poultry. All of the steroid hormone growth-promoting drugs are available for over-the-counter purchase in the U.S. and are generally given by the livestock producer at specific stages of the animals’ growth.
The emphasis is my own. We use these hormones, but they will not have any effect on you. The process has been tested and re-tested and we can properly use these hormones, usually under the care of a vet, so that we are able to efficiently raise the cattle and not end up feeding consumers a bunch of hormones. There are no needles or syringes here. No scary food made in a lab. Really, the hormones are natural.
Remember, cattle produce hormones naturally, just like you and me. But there is no need to worry about the levels of hormones that are produced in the animals. Take this into consideration:
- To eat enough beef to receive the same amount of estrogen as ONE birth control pill, a woman would have to consume 18,421 three ounce servings of beef PER DAY
- One pound of beef from cattle implanted with a growth hormone contains 15,000 times less than the amount of estrogen produced DAILY by the average male & nine million times les than the amount of estrogen produced by a pregnant female
- One 8-oz serving of cabbage contains over 1,000 times more estrogen than the same serving size of steak from beef with a hormone implant
- Feedlot production costs would be 8% higher
- To produce the same amount of Canadian beef would require 12% more cattle, 10% more land, 11% more feed, 4% more water, 7% more fuel and fertilizer
- The reduced feed efficiency and more days to finish so means the cattle would produce 10% more manure (with 10% more nitrogen and 11% more phosphorus), & 10% more and greenhouse gasses in the process
- Margins are typically very tight for cattle feeders due to high costs for calves and feed, so the added expense may put most cattle feeders out of business
- Added production costs in combination with lower supplies would markedly increase retail prices, making Canadian beef unaffordable for many families and uncompetitive in the world market
(Source: Nurse Loves Farmer & The Beef Cattle Research Council)
So, unlike what A&W is telling you, the use of hormones is not only making meat affordable, it is perfectly safe for you and your family. You aren’t going to buy meat laced with hormones from your favorite chain restaurant or from the grocery store. Nor is it going to be laced with antibiotics.
By the time the product gets to market it is going to be safe, clean, and natural.
As I’ve mentioned before: farmers eat the same food that everyone else does. We produce it for consumers, but also for ourselves and our families. We don’t want to eat something that’s going to hurt us. That would be stupid.
So, shame on A&W for promoting fear to make a quick buck.
Sarah [NurseLovesFar says
Thanks for the shout out, but I gotta correct you on something – they don't claim to be antibiotic free, just "no added hormones or steroids" which is one in the same thing – they just added another word for fear factor. The thing that makes me so upset about this campaign is that 2/3 ranches they source are out of country. They source all the way from an Australian ranch, claim it to be "less of a carbon footprint" than sourcing from Canada. We all called BS on Twitter and they won't answer our questions. We're voting with our dollars in Canada and we are #DoneWithAW. It's a shame because they are usually the only fast food restaurant in rural communities and those restaurants didn't sign off on this campaign, probably some chair in Vancouver or Toronto did, it's a shame.
Actually, they mention antibiotics on their FAQ section. They only are doing this because it works, but it is still shameful.
Renee Kester says
Wow, great post! I learned so much. Thank you!!
Joe Scully, ProRodeo says