My name is Earl. A steer’s journey from field to plate.

When Earls restaurant chain announced that they were refusing to buy Alberta beef in favor of a Kansas supplier that has a dubious stamp of being “humane beef” from a Virginia outfit that apparently certifies for these sorts of things, I have to say I was rather stumped. Why would a restaurant chain purposely alienate the people who built them? They were started in Edmonton after all.

There is nothing that the Kansas supplier provides that Alberta does not as far as standards for humane beef go. Regulations prevent antibiotic laden meat from hitting the market and there are countless suppliers who provide non-hormone filled beef on request.

Earl’s made some weak claims that there is consumer demand for this. As a restaurant owner I have to call outright bullshit on that. In this past year, I have had all sorts of odd requests from customers but I have NEVER had a request for certified humane beef. While Earls may have a different clientele in some of their urban locations, I still find it exceedingly hard to believe that there is or ever was any significant demand for this kind of certification.

Even assuming this demand was there and growing, for Earls to claim that they couldn’t find Canadian suppliers who could produce that sort of beef is simply bullshit again. Alberta alone has thousands of producers and over 5 million cattle. With only marginal effort Earls could have brokered directly with some large local producers who would have been overjoyed to produce in whatever manner Earls likes (in fact most of them already do). I guess if they went local though, Earls would have lost the strength of their ill conceived publicity stunt.

As is my nature though, I am inclined to put things to the test.

I decided to purchase beef for my restaurant directly from a local supplier who would abide by my requests for a lack of anti-biotics in the meat, lack of growth hormones and a humane treatment throughout life up to and including processing time.

It took me about 5 minutes on google and couple phone inquiries before I found such a producer.

Meet Earl!

earl1

The young steer pictured above resides but 10 kilometers from my restaurant. I have purchased him and named him Earl in honor of some of Alberta’s less principled restaurant owners.

Earl will be local and grass fed. Earl’s natural growth will suffice thus he will not have any hormones applied. If Earl should grow sick, he will indeed receive treatment even if that means using antibiotics if need be. It would be sick and inhuman to refuse treatment like that even if some restaurants condone such heartless cruelty. If such should happen, Earl would have to wait a minimum of 90 days before heading to the processors all the same as is Alberta regulation. No medications make it to the plate here.

earl2

As can be seen above, I have direct access to check on Earl’s welfare at any time I please. Earl’s mom is a little on the grouchy side so I didn’t get much closer for the shot. She will be a good mom to protect him from coyotes and some of the other hazards Earl may face in grazing free range around here. They have a good relationship and am happy to have purchased a steer from such a solid family unit.

I will track and document Earl’s progress through life here until he hits the plates in my pub. We will observe holidays together and enjoy the great scenery and atmosphere just West of Calgary.

Earl and any other livestock I purchase for my restaurant will be certified humane through the “Cory Morgan certification program” which is no less credible than any organization out of Virginia.

This whole process was remarkably easy to do. I expect it would have been even easier if I needed millions of pounds of meat as producers would be clamoring to get a client who can purchase so much.

In closing, if you want good solid Alberta beef which is antibiotic free and humanely raised, just come on down to Water’s Edge Pub in Priddis (10 minutes from Calgary).

Earl needs to grow a fair bit before he is ready to grace the pub himself but we already stock beef just as humanely raised as he will be.

Now was that so hard?

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Getting real with homelessness

I had an unusual experience in the last few days. A homeless gentleman showed up in my pub one evening. He was friendly enough. He paid for some food and a few drinks and then hung about with some of our regulars for the evening who ended up putting him up for the night. While homeless folks are pretty common in Calgary, it is unusual in Priddis as we have little in the way to shelter them.

The next morning the fellow showed up in our coffee shop and hung about there for the day. Again, he caused no problems and bought a couple items. He is pretty rough around the edges though and made our younger staff members in the coffee shop a little uncomfortable. He then moved into the pub for the evening when it opened. He ate a pizza and then wandered off to where he had camped.

This morning the poor devil showed up at the coffee shop at 7am quite frozen and exhausted. It turns out that while he had a tent, he had no sleeping bag or blanket. He says he had heard large animals moving about in the night which is very possible as we have many cougars and black bears in the area. He was quite miserable and had barely slept.

I had tried to coax him into coming to Calgary with me yesterday to no avail. He was quite eager for a lift into the city today after his experience last night. I drove him in and dropped him off downtown today.

I had a long conversation with him on the drive. It sounds like this guy led an interesting though rough life (as I am sure is the case with many homeless). Substance abuse had taken it’s toll on him physically and while I am not a professional by any means it was pretty clear to me that while the gentleman was quite smart, he had some serious mental health issues.

This man was harmless and troubled. I very much hope he finds some help and settles in somewhere.

Now what I am getting to with this long ramble is that we have to get over this ridiculous and ongoing notion of “ending homelessness” and get more realistic in mitigating it. The man I was dealing with in this last couple few days will never be able to hold down a regular job and likely will never be able to place himself into a position where he can maintain an independent living arrangement. This man needs help mentally and fiscally and will need a degree of care to ensure that he doesn’t come to harm.

Rent controls, forcing developers to build certain housing units, secondary suites etc. and all the rest of that trash that comes from these initiatives to “end homelessness” will do nothing to aid folks like the man I met this week and the thousands of others who are in similar states yet this is exactly what these people who claim to want to end homelessness keep focussing on.

We need to realize that there are some people who will forever be transient no matter what we offer for housing. Some of these people will never kick their substance abuse nor will they somehow beat mental health issues.

Let’s work with those realities and see how we can best help these people with realistic mitigation and care options instead of pursuing expensive pie-in-the sky housing goals that will not help the people who have truly fallen through our cracks in society. I know that the authors of these countless initiatives are predominantly well meaning, but they are also blinding themselves to the true realities of some of these situations.

We need to invest more heavily in mental health facilities and yes, even have some people institutionalized at times. We also need to invest much more in temporary sheltering and substance abuse treatment. The funds wasted chasing potheads around would be well spent on this for example.

Like so many things (such as native issues), we need policy makers to work on dealing with hard realities rather than fluffy ribbon cuttings. It will make a world of difference to us all down the road.

::rant off::

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