Earls Restaurant has reversed its decision to buy beef from a sole United States supplier, a move that had shut out Alberta beef producers from selling to the 66-restaurant chain.
“We’ve made a mistake. We want to make things right,” the company said in a statement on its website.
Last week Earls had announced it would only serve beef that had been humanely raised, transported and slaughtered. Earls said a company in Kansas called Creekstone Farms was the only supplier that both met the farm-to-abbatoir humane treatment certification, and could provide the amount of meat the restaurant chain required.
There are two certified humane distributors in North America: one in Kansas and one in Alberta, said Cate Simpson, a spokeswoman for Earls.
“They operate in a similar way in that they gather up dozens of different small ranches to work with them to supply beef into their facility,” Simpson said. “We were looking at this particular facility in Alberta and they source from [several different] ranches in Alberta.”
Earls had tried for three years to source from Alberta, but suppliers there couldn’t provide the consistent volume the company needs, she said. Steaks and hamburgers are the most popular items on the restaurant’s menu.
Earls’ announcement prompted an immediate backlash from the Alberta beef industry, which urged Albertans to boycott Earls restaurants. They appear to have taken up the call — foot traffic was down significantly in some Alberta locations, Cate Simpson, a spokeswoman for Earls, told Business in Vancouver on May 3.
Since last week, Earls had been contacted by several smaller ranches who were interested in supplying humanely-raised beef to the company and Earls is working with them as well as with Alberta Beef Producers, Simpson said. It could mean the supply chain will get more complicated.
“We won’t be able to go through our conventional suppliers and distributors,” she said. “It’s different than the way we usually work.”