Just in time for the BBQ! Our 375 gram boneless Ribeye Steaks are on sale while supplies last!
The Earls Certified Humane debate…
Its been all over the news this week; Earls has decided to source their beef from the US because they cannot find a reliable source of Certified Humane beef in Canada. So what is a discerning consumer supposed to think? Let's start with what the Certified Humane label means. If you were not aware, there are many "humane" certifications available to producers — and they are not all created equal. What they have in common is ensuring that the "five freedoms" are met (PDF file from the RSPCA website):
- Freedom from hunger and thirst (providing enough fresh water and the right type and amount of food to keep an animal fit);
- Freedom from discomfort (making sure that animals have the right type of environment including shelter and somewhere comfortable to rest);
- Freedom from pain, injury and disease (preventing them from getting ill or injured and making sure animals are diagnosed and treated rapidly if they do get sick);
- Freedom to behave normally (making sure animals have enough space, facilities and the company of other animals of their own kind), and;
- Freedom from fear and distress (making sure their conditions and treatment avoid mental suffering).
The Certified Humane label is a very basic animal welfare certification that many Alberta beef producers could achieve if they went through the process. This certification allows producers to to raise animals in ILOs (intensive livestock operations) but places strict guidelines on animal densities (how many animals are allowed per square metre), antibiotic withdrawal times, weaning, dehorning, branding and several other common practices employed by the livestock industry today. In most instances the only difference between producers that are certified and those that are not is a written plan detailing how their farm or ranch is managed (including detailed recordkeeping).
So what is all the fuss about?
If many Alberta beef producers could meet the Certified Humane standards then what is the problem? That is a part of the story that is missing and has to do with what is called a "value chain". A value chain is the process required to get a product to market — whether it is sold to a restaurant, retailer or through an online store. Here on TK Ranch we have created what is called a vertically integrated value chain — we own and control every aspect of our production from birth to the end consumer. We own and manage our own animals, abattoir, cutting facilities, refrigerated trucks and website. It has taken us years to accomplish this because it is a very complicated and expensive process. The most difficult part was learning how to sell every part of an animal — if you don't sell everything you process you will not be in business long. And this is the key issue — it is likely that Earls took its business south of the border because they only want a few cuts from each animal. This means that anyone supplying Earls would be forced to find a market for the rest of the cuts, and we are not talking about a small amount — but hundreds of thousands of kilograms every year. With the right amount of coordination and a boat load of money this could be accomplished, but there is a lot of risk involved. If Earls was really committed to using Alberta beef they would expand their menu to include a lot more of the cuts. This would help balance the risk for any producers contemplating taking on this very challenging business opportunity.
What is the real message?
The fact that Earls is looking for a product that has the word "humane" in the title is representative of changing consumer trends. The internet and social media are reconnecting consumers with their food and many don't like what they are finding out about factory farming. This has caused them to look for more "humane" options but like anything the devil is in the details. There are a lot of organizations that certify producers to what they believe are high welfare standards, but only you can decide which certification best meets your individual animal welfare concerns.
Is TK Ranch Certfied Humane?
We considered the Certified Humane program several years ago but decided it was not aligned with our core values about raising livestock on pasture. Instead we chose to be certified through Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) because they do not allow the confinement of animals in intensive livestock operations. For this reason the AWA is recognized as having the most stringent animal welfare standards in North America. Our cattle, pigs and sheep are never confined — they are born, raised and finished on pasture. During the winter we move them home to pastures that have good shelter and access to fresh water and stored feed. Our chicken is not AWA certified because we do not raise them outdoors — our cold Alberta winters and the number of predators that like to eat chicken make this very challenging. Instead we have opted for low density housing where our birds have lots of room to move while being kept warm and safe. Our goal is to meet the highest welfare standards possible.
TK Ranch Recognized for Humane Treatment of Livestock
For decades TK Ranch has acted as an ambassador for the ethical treatment of animals but only recently has the conventional livestock industry started to respect and acknowledge our position. In March we were selected to receive the Alberta Farm Animal Care Award of Distinction for Industry Leadership because of our commitment to animal welfare. This recognition denotes a monumental shift in the way the livestock industry views consumer concerns regarding animal welfare. Instead of trying to convince consumers that they are wrong, the livestock industry is beginning to step up to the plate and recognize that change is needed. Change is slow, but at least it's a shift in the right direction!
We would like to thank all of you that sent us messages congratulating us on this award; they were very appreciated!
Vote with your dollars!
Every time you purchases a product that has been raised in a sustainable manner you are voting with your dollars. This is the most effective way to exact change (no pun intended) in the livestock industry. So keep up the good work and thanks for your support!
If you have already placed an order and want to add to it, you can either:
- Place another order and we will combine them when we fill the orders for that week, or;
- If what you would like to add is less than our minimum order ($50), please contact us and we will update your order and send you a confirmation email.
If there is something you would like that is "out of stock" on the website, please put a note in the comments section of your order (include the item name and number you would like). If we receive the item before we fill your order, we will happily add it for you. 🙂