In its latest television ad campaign A&W is raising its image by promoting its hormone-free hamburgers. The sample audience is surprised and one taster even comments about never having connected such a quality product with a fast food restaurant. This simple, easy-to-remember message delivered to a target audience is just what Canada’s poultry industry needs.
Canadian chicken has been hormone free since 1963, but the lack of understanding of this fact, even by the most food-conscious consumers, means that past marketing and promotion efforts have not been particularly effective.
When Canadian poultry farmers sell their pasture-raised chickens at the Vancouver’s Farmers Markets, I am often surprised at the lack of knowledge consumers have about Canadian raised poultry. Even the “foodies” at the markets ask if our birds are hormone or steroid free. We display pictures of birds at Farmers Markets in green pastures that clearly show our birds are raised cage free, but all meat birds in Canada are raised free run, and are hormone free and steroid free.
The poultry industry in Canada is already highly regulated. Producers are audited annually to ensure they are following the On Farm Food Safety Program and biosecurity and animal welfare protocols. Failure to comply with these standards can result in the loss of the right to produce. Nationally, the poultry industry is considering adopting a requirement that antibiotics only be used under prescription from a veterinarian. When this is adopted, most poultry in Canada will be raised without medication. Consumers may remember stories from South American countries where hormones in chicken feed resulted in children maturing at young ages.
The poultry industry in BC, and in Canada, has a good story to tell, but it needs to revisit how it communicates that story to customers.