Wendy's Shares the Love

Burger Chain Shares Their "Beef Story" with Producers

Dennis Hecker of Wendy's said the organization supplies fresh beef two to three times each week to some 5,700 of their restaurants. (DTN/The Progressive Farmer photo by Virginia Harris)

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 of cattle producers at the recent National Cattlemen's Beef Association annual meeting.

"We have a great story and we realized customers don't know it," said Liliana Esposito, chief communications officer for Wendy's, in speaking about the planned campaign. She added that telling the company's story to a group of cattle producers was a unique chance to connect with this part of their supply chain. Normally, she explained, Wendy's contracts with beef suppliers at the processor level.

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

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

ANIMAL WELFARE AND ANTIBIOTIC USE

In developing its antibiotic-use and animal welfare policies, Wendy's assembled a team of animal welfare experts and beef industry representatives. That team included 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 of beef suppliers require at least a 90% passing. Wendy's has been performing regular audits since the mid-1990s, and annual audits for 15 years. The company's welfare policy includes standards for health, transportation, holding and handling. Detailed information is available on their website: www.wendys.com/en-us/about-wendys/animal-welfare-program

Under Wendy's antibiotic policy, beef producers work with veterinarians to treat diseases using the lowest possible, effective drug dosage. Suppliers are encouraged to identify and utilize production practices that negate the need for antibiotics -- especially when considering routine prevention or control. Hecker stressed this is important as consumer demand for meat from animals raised without antibiotics continues to grow.

Wendy's chief communications officer, Esposito, told DTN that while consumer demand for animals raised free of antibiotics is a reality, the company does "recognize the realities of production."

She added: "We need to be transparent and we need to constantly look at ways to improve our practices. 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."

Consumers are looking for more information, she 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

(VM/CZ)