At one point on its 25-year journey to a standardized Beef Quality Assurance program, the beef checkoff made a key philosophical shift from correcting violations to improving product quality. Since then, that proactive stance has evolved into a program of sound, science-based production practices aimed at improving consumer satisfaction and increasing market opportunities for beef producers, according to the Cattlemen’s Beef Board.
The program's foundation is the BQA Strategic Plan 2010, which was unveiled at the cattle industry's annual summer conference last month in Denver. As a beef checkoff initiative, the plan still must be approved for funding by the Beef Promotion and Operating Committee in September. If accepted, it will become the first formal long range plan to guide national BQA efforts.
"BQA is just good business," says Cattlemen's Beef Board member Carl Crabtree, an Idaho cattleman who chairs the Beef Quality Assurance advisory board.
BQA strategic priorities for 2008 include development of a national standards manual; pilot programs; and initiatives for dairy and market cows and bulls. Architects of the national guidelines also want to give state beef councils the flexibility to move beyond national standards to take advantage of individual state needs and market opportunities.
The 1991 audit, the first comprehensive audit of beef carcasses, determined the industry lost nearly $280 due to quality defects for the average fed animal marketed. The majority of loss was due to fat, lack of marbling and other defects, including injection-site lesions. With improved oversight of these animals, the audit said producers could recoup about $70 a head for each marketed animal.
A number of individual BQA programs have been developed across the country, through state beef councils and other entities. The Missouri Beef Quality Assurance Program is designed to meet the quality improvement and preconditioning needs of producers, feeders and consumers. It assists producers in setting production standards, establishing a system for data retention and record keeping, and educating them on industry issues and practices.
Veterinarians and producers learn how they can influence carcass quality and consumer confidence by monitoring where and when injections are administered. Once certified, the producer may participate in the Missouri and national programs.
The 2005 National Beef Quality audit revealed that progress is being made – some 77% of carcasses processed had no defects and the incidence of injection site blemishes decreased dramatically. The remaining animals, however, presented defects from quality grade, yield and weight; the audit recommended finding ways to eliminate these problems before the next audit in 2010.
There are currently 43 certified BQA advisors in the United States. For more information, visit www.bqa.org. For more information on the Missouri Beef Quality Assurance Program visit www.mocattle.org.