Joey Restaurant Group has no plans to join sister company Earls Kitchen + Bar’s initiative of buying only U.S. beef certified to be humane.
Earls made its announcement last week and the company was immediately besieged with angry posts on social media from people who believed that the company should buy Canadian beef and that its move was a slap in the face of Alberta ranchers’ methods.
Vancouver’s Fuller family owns both Joey and Earls and launched each of those chains in Alberta, where much of the outrage is based.
“At this time we are not looking at this,” Joey president Al Jessa told Business in Vancouver on May 2.
“At the same time I am in complete support of [Earls'] sourcing philosophy. I believe restaurants should be able to source ingredients that are of best quality for the best price. That is how we create value for our guests.”
Jessa then gave the example of how his restaurant chain serves what he called “the best grade of Sirloin in North America,” certified Angus beef (CAB) prime.
“It’s the most flavourful, tender steak you can find on the market,” Jessa said. “As Canada does not currently produce enough CAB prime, we have sourced our sirloins from outside Canada."
Joey's tenderloins, striploins and ground beef are all 100% Canadian beef from High River, Alberta, and all of its cuts, including sirloin steaks, are processed in Canada, according to Jessa.
North Vancouver’s A&W Food Services of Canada Inc. made a move in 2013 to source what it claimed was better meat for its customers and it, similarly, faced a backlash.
A&W went with beef that the company said was raised “without added hormones or steroids.”
Critics, such as Canadian Cattlemen's Association science director Reynold Bergen, told BIV at the time that the description was “misleading” because meat necessarily contains hormones and any “added hormones” would be minuscule by the time the meat is consumed.
“To get exposed to the same amount of estrogen as an average woman produces in a day, you would have to eat three million hamburgers,” he said.
Earls, with 65 restaurants, is bigger than Joey.
Jessa oversees 27 Joey restaurants, five of which are in B.C. He is also responsible for nine Local Public Eateries, including one in Kitsilano, and two Saltlik restaurants in Alberta.
Bus Fuller and his four sons own the restaurants although their stakes are not equal. Stan Fuller has a larger holding in Earls and is CEO at that chain while Jeff Fuller has a larger stake and is CEO at Joey. The other brothers are Stewart and Clay.
“What I find interesting about this story is no one is saying to the public that, between Earls and Joey, we invested over $25 million in the province in the last 12 months while other companies are pondering getting out,” Jessa said.
“That to me is real support, real job creation.”
Jessa's twin brother, Mo Jessa, is president of Earls.