Wendy's Shares its Story

Company Officials Address Beef Producers

Dennis Hecker explains Wendy's beef supply chain process to an audience at the 2016 NCBA Cattle Industry Convention. (Photo Credit: Virginia Harris)

SAN DIEGO (DTN) -- To you, it's a simple cheeseburger. To Wendy's it's the symbol of their legacy.

With plans to "relaunch" their single-patty cheeseburger in 2016, Wendy's presented the story of their history and beef supply chain to an audience in the trade show at the 2016 NCBA Cattle Industry Convention.

"We have a great story and we realized customers don't know it," said Liliana Esposito, chief communications officer for Wendy's, about the planned campaign. In addition, telling that story to cattle producers was a chance to connect with a part of their supply chain the company doesn't always have direct contact with. Wendy's contracts with suppliers for beef typically at the processor level.

Dennis Hecker, executive vice president, quality control, explained Wendy's focuses on quality from the farm all the way to the finished product in a Wendy's restaurant. Touting their commitment to serving fresh beef, rather than frozen, Hecker noted the restaurants in the U.S. use all North American beef, all processed in the U.S.

The ability to use all fresh ingredients relies on the company's Quality Supply Chain Cooperative, begun in 2010. The cooperative establishes contracts with various food suppliers across the country as directed by the franchisee members. The cooperative contracts with processing plants, patty makers and distributors across the U.S. to supply fresh beef two to three times per week to the roughly 5,700 Wendy's restaurants in the U.S.

WENDY'S ANIMAL WELFARE AND ANTIBIOTIC USE POLICIES

In developing an antibiotic use policy and animal welfare policy, Wendy's assembled a team of welfare experts and beef industry representatives, including Temple Grandin, professor of animal science at Colorado State University; Dr. Linda Detweiler, former USDA veterinarian; Henry Zerby, animal science department chair at The Ohio State University; and Dr. Michael Appleby, professor at Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

Annual audits require at least a 90% passing score for contracted suppliers of beef. Wendy's has been performing regular audits since the mid-1990s and annual audits for 15 years. The welfare policy includes health, transportation, holding and handling standards. More information can be found here: https://www.wendys.com/…

Wendy's antibiotic policy asks producers to work with veterinarians to treat diseases using the lowest possible dosage to effectively eradicate the disease. In addition, Wendy's encourages suppliers "to identify production practices that negate the need for antibiotics especially for routine prevention or control," according to Hecker's presentation. Consumer demand for meat from animals raised without antibiotics continues to rise.

Wendy's chief communications officer, Esposito, told DTN that consumer demand exists for animals raised free of antibiotics, but "we do recognize the realities of production.

"We need to be transparent and we need to constantly look at ways to improve our practices," Esposito said. "And we also know that the best beef comes from healthy, well-cared for animals. So a sick animal needs to be treated and you're not going to hear anything different from us."

With that in mind, consumers are looking for more information, Esposito said. "They're looking for more transparency about practices that are used, and they're looking for assurances that those practices are being updated as often as they need to be and they are constantly being improved."

Virginia Harris can be reached at Virginia.harris@dtn.com

Follow Virginia Harris on Twitter @VirginiaHHarris

(CZ/BAS)