In a Surprising Move, This Major Fast-Food Chain Will Start Selling Grass-Fed Burgers
For years, Carl’s Jr. has stuck to a tried-and-tested method to market its hamburgers: Enlist blond women (in one case, for equality, a brown-haired male) to peddle them—in slow motion—on TV. But it seems that sex is no longer enough to sell the American fast-food staple.
On Dec. 17, the California-based chain will roll out the All-Natural Burger at all of its 1,150 stores, most of them on the West Coast. It contains no hormones, no antibiotics, no steroids—and it’s sourced from free-range, grass-fed cows for the affordable price of $4.69 for a single patty and $6.99 for a double. Carl’s Jr. will be the first major fast-food chain to feature a “natural” burger on its menu, according to USA Today.
CKE Restaurants, the chain’s parent company, made the decision after the burgers proved popular at a trial run in Los Angeles last summer. Hardee’s, Carl’s Jr.’s sister brand, plans to test the menu item in the Midwest market soon.
As much as foodies or animal rights advocates might like to take credit, the company says the move wasn’t at all political.
“Our objective has never been to tell people what to eat, but to serve them what they want to eat,” CKE Restaurants CEO Andy Puzder told USA Today.
These are tough times for fast food. McDonald’s recently reported its worst domestic sales in more than 14 years. It’s now expanding a build-your-own-burger option available in a few California locations to five other states, and it’s divvying up management into regions to account for local variations in taste.
According to Puzder, CKE will import the beef from Australia because there isn’t enough local supply. The domestic meat industry uses 80 percent of antibiotics in the U.S., creating a serious health concern that kills 23,000 Americans every year.
Chipotle Mexican Grill, one of the fast-casual restaurants overtaking fast-food chains in sales, sources its meat from down under as well. CEO Steve Ells has asserted that the natural beef industry in the U.S. isn’t keeping up with demand.
“Even though our loyalty to American rangers is strong, rather than meet the shortfall with conventionally raised beef from cattle treated with growth hormones and antibiotics, we decided to take this opportunity to start sourcing more truly grass-fed steak,” he said in an op-ed for Huffington Post.
Still, the claim “natural” should be taken with a grain of salt. CKE Restaurant’s chief marketing officer told USA Today that the new burger meets the USDA’s definition of the term—which, as TakePart found in a recent exploration of food labels with Consumer Reports, means virtually nothing. The federal agency considers meat minimally processed and containing no artificial ingredients or added color “natural,” requirements that apply to all fresh meat, regardless of how the animal was raised.
Provenance aside, customers also shouldn’t confuse “grass-fed” with healthy. According to Carl’s Jr., the burger has 760 calories and 44 grams of fat.