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TV burger ad mentioning "North American Beef"

greygarious Oct 14, 2009 11:40 AM

I was multitasking when I heard this on TV and am not sure whose ad it was - I'm thinking perhaps Wendy's - but thought the terminology was intriguing. Perhaps this is in reaction to U.S. consumers' fears about imported foods, courtesy of the problems with China-sourced food contamination, and/or to the NY Times article about the risk of E. coli in ground beef and the multiplicity of sources that may be represented in a single package of meat. "North" could do with a little parsing. I suspect that in this case it is hoped that consumers will think that is synonymous with the U.S. and perhaps Canada, which many Americans don't regard as a foreign country, and equate with "safe". But for these purposes it likely includes Mexico and perhaps Central America (countries north Colombia). There's a lot of anti-immigrant sentiment in the U.S. - often boiling down to anti-Mexican/Latino.

Maybe I'm being too cynical, but the terminology struck me as xenophobic. Considering our expectation of year-round fresh produce availabilty, and the international sourcing of ingredients in processed foods, it is ridiculous to imply that "North American" is inherently superior to foreign-sourced. I believe that by including that phrase in the burger ad, the company was trying to make that distinction.

  1. l
    litenmyiz Nov 6, 2009 10:40 PM

    The commercial was Wendy's. Like you, when I heard the terminology I was intrigued but for different reasons. I remembered once looking it to the phrase 100% American Beef that McDonald's used on their ads and wrappers. Turns out it was a special classification of beef that allowed marketers claim 100% if their beef product used less then 30% filler. 60 minuets and 20/20 both did reports on this back in the early 90s.

    1 Reply
    1. re: litenmyiz
      greygarious Nov 7, 2009 06:28 AM

      That ad seems to have disappeared - wonder if that's because of another round of ground beef recalls. Or maybe, a la McDonald's and the NY Times, North American Beef translates as "guaranteed untested for E.coli". I made my first post-article trip to Costco and got their 88% lean ground beef ($2.29/lb) so as to support responsible meat-grinding plants.

    2. dave_c Oct 16, 2009 12:28 PM

      The irony is that a majority of the E. Coli outbreaks in the US are from American Beef.

      2 Replies
      1. re: dave_c
        k
        KTinNYC Oct 16, 2009 12:38 PM

        Wouldn't this have something to do with the fact that most beef consumed in the US also comes from the US? E Coli is found in the lower intestines of all warm blooded animals it's not limited to cows in the states.

        1. re: dave_c
          m
          MakingSense Nov 7, 2009 12:19 PM

          The US banned imports of Canadian beef for at least a year or more back around 2003, 2004, maybe longer after Mad Cow was found in Canadian cattle. One of them slipped across the US Northern border and started a panic. Japan and several other counties banned imports of Canadian beef for quite a while.
          It affected US exports until the source in Canada was isolated.
          E. coli can come from processing, but it can also come from poor sanitation and food handling.
          "Employees must wash hand after using the bathroom."

        2. legourmettv Oct 16, 2009 07:23 AM

          A fair amount of U.S. and Canadian beef has dual citizenship...
          The calf will be born in one country, spend part of it's life in the other, and then travel to be slaughtered in whatever country has capacity.
          The meat may then cross the border yet again before it hits your plate.

          NAFTA's great! Isn't it?

          G.

          1 Reply
          1. re: legourmettv
            coney with everything Nov 30, 2009 04:29 AM

            mmmm, NAFTA beef...>homer drooling sound<

            Well, we outsourced manufacturing, customer service, IT jobs...let's go for the win with farming!! At least Canadians get paid like Americans so they are reasonable competitors.

          2. l
            lagatta Oct 14, 2009 04:05 PM

            North America is Canada, the United States and Mexico. Countries between Mexico and Colombia are Central America.

            We are a foreign country: we have public, socialised healthcare. ;-)

            I have zero desire to eat fastfood burgers, wherever they come from. There are much better burgers, and if short on cash, one can always make one's own; we do.

            8 Replies
            1. re: lagatta
              greygarious Oct 14, 2009 04:13 PM

              I did search the definition before posting - depending on who's doing the defining, NA can include or exclude some or all of Central America, according to the charts on Wikipedia. I have no idea how much beef, if any, is imported from Central America.

              1. re: greygarious
                oakjoan Oct 14, 2009 11:34 PM

                I think it's meant to instill a feeling that the beef is from Canada. We've had lots of U.S. publicity about the smelly and grotesque feedlots, etc. here.

                But maybe it IS meant to sneakily let us know that it's not from any of those "poor" countries where "foreigners" life...and don't speak English.

                1. re: oakjoan
                  k
                  KTinNYC Oct 15, 2009 09:47 AM

                  "I think it's meant to instill a feeling that the beef is from Canada."

                  This is my feeling as well. I think if you ask most people from the states what countries are in N. America I'd be willing to bet less then 25% will include Mexico. I'm pretty certain the beef is coming from Mexico and this ad is just playing on the ignorance of the populace.

                  1. re: KTinNYC
                    k
                    kmcarr Oct 16, 2009 06:18 AM

                    Does Mexico have any significant beef export business?

                    1. re: kmcarr
                      k
                      KTinNYC Oct 16, 2009 07:23 AM

                      I'm pretty certain Costco carries Mexican beef but I'm not sure how big the industry is over-all.

                      A google search reveals this document http://albertabeef.org/res/cp-Fast%20... which shows that Mexico was the 8th highest producer of beef in 2006.

                      1. re: KTinNYC
                        k
                        kmcarr Oct 16, 2009 11:55 AM

                        Thanks for the info, I wasn't sure myself and apparently your Google mojo is stronger than mine.

                    2. re: KTinNYC
                      l
                      LexiconDul Nov 29, 2009 08:23 PM

                      I suspect it's a statement reguarding the slash-and-burn beef farms of South and Central America: We don't serve cow that rainforest was sacrificed to grow.

                    3. re: oakjoan
                      l
                      lagatta Oct 15, 2009 09:51 AM

                      Lots of people here don't speak English.

                2. g
                  gastrotect Oct 14, 2009 02:35 PM

                  I don't think it's a xenophobic to suggest that the more local the food, the better. That goes for meat as well as veggies. My guess is whichever chain this is is indeed hoping that people equate North American with US though. To be fair, even if the meat came from Canada I think they'd still go with the North American terminology.

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