Earls’ Certified Humane beef
Earls is a Canadian restaurant chain that has traditionally used Alberta Beef in its upscale casual restaurants. No more. This changed in April 2016, when it was announced that Earls’ certified humane beef would come from the US.
Where is Earls’ certified humane beef coming from?
To begin with, it’s not from Canada! Because the certified humane designation is an American program, most of partnering farms are in the US. Earl’s claims they couldn’t find enough cattle farmers in Canada to supply their restaurants, so they’re now sourcing all their beef from a single farm in Kansas called Creekstone Farms, as this YouTube video from Earls explains. According to their website, Creekstone Farms only became “certified humane” January 20, 2016 – just four months ago.
Creekstone farms likes to hype their “legacy” image and connection to Temple Grandin. But they are not a small family farm. Creekstone is owned by Sun Capital, a global investment firm specializing in Leveraged Buyouts. Sun Capital’s list of partners include franchises like Restaurants Unlimited, the Johnny Rockets Burger Chain and Boston Market. I’m not against capitalism by any means, but selling Creekstone as a family farm is disingenuous.
What does “Certified Humane” mean?
The “Certified Humane” label, which is endorsed by groups like the ASPCA, means different things for different animals. For example, “certified humane” chickens can have their beaks “trimmed”, but they cannot be de-beaked (and how is that humane? And what is the difference?). If this sounds like a semantic difference meant to confuse consumers, that’s because it is.
The precise guidelines for “Certified Humane” beef can be found in this pdf guide from the Certified Humane website. Interestingly, I found it very similar to the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Beef Cattle, except, in all honesty, the industry standards here in Canada are more specific than those of the “certified humane”. Other than vague discussions about providing “shade” for the cattle, the “Certified Humane” guidelines seem to have more to do with making consumers feel good than they do with animal safety and comfort.
For example, when it comes to castration, the Certified Humane guidelines are buried in the appendix and they have little to say beyond “it’s a good thing.” The Canadian Beef document, on the other hand, has far more specific guidelines encouraging the use of anaesthetic, etc.
Humane Meat Does Not Exist
When you look closely at the documents on certified humane.org, it becomes clear the designation is meant primarily to make consumers feel better about themselves, not to alleviate animal suffering.
There is no such thing as humane meat. No animal wants to die, and if you want to be humane, don’t eat meat, dairy or eggs. If you aren’t ready to do that, eat less meat, dairy and eggs. But don’t pretend labels like “certified humane” can remove you from association with factory farming practices.
I have no doubt that the promoters of the humane certification mean well, but in practice, there is little difference between conventional and certified humane practices. Designations like these make consumers feel like humanitarians for supporting “happy meat”, while whitewashing factory farms for the price of a few inspections each year from the agency. Not a bad deal, especially for giant concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).
Don’t be fooled by humane meat
Don’t be fooled by humane meat. These certifications are part of the cost of doing business, making it even harder for smaller farmers to compete. There aren’t enough farms in Alberta that have paid for the certification, therefore Earls is buying from the USA.
The restaurant will then charge a premium price for a product that is likely identical to what they could buy right here. This increases the already astronomical environmental cost of animal agriculture, and also hurts smaller producers.
You guys already know I’m vegan, so please don’t think I don’t care about the conditions of factory animals. I do. That’s why I think it is so important for consumers to let these companies know that we will not be fooled by phoney certifications that mean absolutely nothing. I’m sure humane meat started from concern for animal conditions. But today, it’s just a chance for middlemen to extract more profit. It’s almost like a mafia! If farmers don’t pay, they can’t compete.
Earls makes a lot of delicious food. I love their curries, which can easily be made vegan if you leave off the meat. If Earls really wants to promote animal welfare, they can feature vegetarian and vegan menu items, not rely on bogus labelling. Delicious, gourmet vegan meals will make cattle everywhere much happier than feel-good marketing campaigns.
What do you think? Should we be focused on labelling, or reducing meat consumption? Personally, I’ll be boycotting Earl’s until they decide to drop the hypocritical act and recognize that “humane” is more than a label you pay to put on your steak.