In a June review praising Culver's limited-time pepper grinder pub burger, a company spokesman noted that the Prairie du Sac-based hamburger chain gets its beef from "family farms both big and small."
But that Culver's representative could not provide a list of those family farmers to verify that they weren't actually so-called "factory farms."
Now the company is out with a new ad campaign that includes billboards that read: "Culver's Family Farm Fresh."
Since Culver's is playing up the family farm angle, the State Journal asked if the company might now release the names of its farmers.
"We at Culver's do not have lists of farmers," Culver's spokesman Paul Pitas said in an email. "Farmers sell their beef to what are called raw component suppliers ... the suppliers in turn sell to manufacturers ...who in turn provide us beef ready for restaurant use. If there are lists it would be at that end of the supply chain."
The "Family Farm Fresh" billboards are included in a menu of billboard options that franchisees can choose from, Pitas said.
He didn't know how many of the billboards have been put up by franchisees in all 22 states with Culver's restaurants.
"It's quite possible these boards are being seen throughout the system. We've been encouraging our franchisees to go with this particular board because it ties in so closely with our 'Welcome to Delicious' campaign and 'Thank You Farmers' program," Pitas said.
There don't seem to be any of the billboards in the Madison area. Pitas said the closest sign he could find is off I-94 in Lake Mills. There's another one on Highway 12 on the way to Baraboo.
The Culver's website also touts the farmer theme and "Midwest-raised beef." There is a picture of a little girl holding a sign that says "Thank you farmers."
There's another photo of a sturdy farm woman simply named "Shane," identified as a sixth-generation farmer who says, “It’s what I feed my family. I know it’s healthy, I know it’s wholesome and I know I can feel good about giving it to them.“
The pepper grinder pub burger is no longer on the menu, but Pitas said the company will be reviving its Colby Jack pub burger starting Nov. 3. Plans for the pepper grinder pub burger and other burger items for 2015 are still in development, he said.