Thursday, 9 July 2009

Ontario Corn fed beef : Worth switching grocery stores for?

Spring is a tremendously busy time of the year for farmers as the entire year's crop is dependent on timely land preparation and planting. It is a time when the events in the rest of the world take a back seat to the demands of this most important job. When I finally got a chance to read my April copy of the Ontario Cattle Feeders newsletter I was quite dismayed that Loblaws has decided to pull its support of the Ontario Corn Fed beef program in the heat of spring planting pressure.
This delivers a huge wooden spike right into the heart of the Ontario cattle industry. Loblaws has used the excuse of the downturn in the economy to boot out Ontario Corn fed beef from 140 of its "Your Independent Grocer" and Valu-mart stores across the province. The company is seeking to save costs by streamlining its brands into national ones. Loblaws will be offering a President’s Choice Canadian Triple-A Tenderized program that will be featured in all stores owned by the corporation. They made it clear that the Ontario Corn fed beef program has done very well for them. However the problem, apparently, is that the brand is a provincial program, making it more costly to handle and warehouse because it is only sold in one region. As well, they have added costs for print material and promotional fliers when they have to specify a brand in one region by itself.
This program, started eight years ago by the Ontario Cattle Feeders Association, has provided a branded beef program that has enabled consumers to identify a premium product with consistent quality. The website says:
"The Ontario Corn Fed Beef program provides consumers with an identifiably Ontario brand of beef – known to be consistent, premium and locally-raised. The feed of cattle plays a big role in the flavour of the beef. In this program, cattle consume a high percentage of corn in their diets. This diet gives beef superior marbling which makes it the most tender tasty beef anywhere. Corn-fed cattle have a desirable, distinct beef flavour recognized in the finest restaurants. To be eligible to participate in the program, beef farmers must follow stringent quality assurance protocols."
Since its introduction into the market place in 2001, Shoppers knew that they would be getting the same enjoyable dining experience every time when they bought beef that carried the Ontario Corn Fed label. They also knew that they were buying beef produced right here in Ontario. One of the strongest consumer trends is the desire to buy food that is produced locally. The popularity of books such as "The Hundred Mile Diet" and a desire to reduce or improve their environmental footprint have revitalized farmers' markets and encouraged consumers to look for food produced in our own province.
It is ironic that a grocery store chain which has been using their president Galen Weston in ads telling consumers that their practices provide "products worth switching supermarkets for" would be working to do exactly the opposite. The website has a banner ad proudly proclaiming "Proudly Canadian and local". It was not long ago that they proclaimed that they bought more Canadian farm produce than any other grocery chain. Homespun tours of orchards and vegetable farms were a regular feature of their television ads. If consumers want Ontario-produced beef, they need to ask for it; send letters to Loblaw Companies Limited, 1 President's Choice Circle, Brampton, Ontario,ON, L6Y 5S5 Attention: LCL Customer Relations Centre 2nd Floor, North Tower. You can also call them at 1-800-296-2332.
Talk to your local store owner and make it clear that you want your hard-earned dollars to stay in rural Ontario by purchasing locally. Retailers want their customers to be happy. They carry the products that people want so they’ll continue to shop in their stores. Also, there are other retailers that strongly support the local initiative. Maybe people need to start shopping more at the stores that support locally produced food.

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