LANIGAN, Sask. (Canadian Press) — McDonald's Canada and the president of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association are trying to counter what they say is false information being spread by an Internet hoax.
The hoax email purports to be from an Alberta cattle-feeding group and calls for a boycott of the fast-food chain because it says McDonald's has plans to buy most of its beef from South America.
Not true, association president Brad Wildeman said Monday.
He's been receiving the email in one form or another since 2003 and in the past, has tried personally emailing the sender to refute it.
Because the email has been so widely circulated, the association thought it was time to set the record straight, he said.
"We needed to take a more proactive stance and not only say it's not true and it's a hoax, but here's the real facts behind what's going on," Wildeman said.
McDonald's Canada buys as much home-grown beef as it can, and the company said in a news release that translates into using about 29 million kilograms each year to feed over two million Canadian customers.
The restaurant giant said it has bought small quantities of beef from New Zealand, Australia and the United States in the past but adds that the vast majority of its beef comes from Canadian producers.
"McDonald's Canada proudly supports the beef industry," said company senior vice-president Jeff Kroll in a news release.
"Beef is at the core of our menu and with the help of our dedicated Canadian partners in the industry, we are meeting the needs of our customers by delivering safety, quality, consistency and innovation in our varied beef offerings."
Ron Christianson, director of communications for McDonald's, said the company wanted to set the record straight.
"It's important to our customers to know that we do source Canadian where possible and certainly when it comes to beef, we're very proud of the fact that all of our beef is 100 per cent sourced in Canada and produced in Canada," he said in a telephone interview from Toronto.
In a statement on its website, the company declared the chain email a hoax.
"At McDonald's Canada, we currently source 100 per cent of our beef from farms and ranches right across Canada and have no plans today to purchase any beef from South America," the website says.
According to the restaurant chain, the email first surfaced in the United States in 2002, claiming to be from beef producers in Texas.
It may not always be possible for Canadian beef producers to supply all the lean meat McDonald's needs, but Wildeman said any beef brought in from other countries would have to meet stringent food safety regulations.
"Although this seems to be a bit of an attack on McDonald's, what we're really looking at is questioning the safety of our food products," he said. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency inspects meat from other countries and it has to meet minimum food safety requirements, he added.
"No country, regardless of how cheaply they want to sell their products, can bring beef into this country unless it meets the stringent safety requirements that the CFIA has," Wildeman said.
He has visited the company's beef plants and said McDonald's has among the highest safety measures available.
"This idea that just because they're a low priced, fast-service restaurant that they don't care about food safety, (it) simply isn't true," Wildeman said.