Beef Quality Assurance audit assesses management practices
Members of the Texas beef industry who follow Beef Quality Assurance practices can compare their efforts to what the nation's beef producers are doing in the 2011 National Beef Quality Audit. The checkoff-funded audit, which was released July 26 at the 2012 Cattle Industry Summer Conference in Denver, found both notable progress and areas that still need beef producers' attention.
"The BQA program is an integral part of the entire industry's work to create a great product and drive beef demand," said Larry Pratt, chairman of the Texas Beef Council's beef resources committee. "BQA can only be as good as the level of responsibility taken by segments along the production chain. The checkoff is working hard to keep Texas cattlemen and women up to speed on the industry's latest data in hopes of implementing best management practices that leads to consumers have a positive beef eating experience."
The 2011 audit offers the most comprehensive top-to-bottom review ever conducted of the industry's beef quality practices. Grading data was collected from nearly 2.5 million carcasses in 17 federally inspected plants owned by four beef processing companies. The study included face-to-face interviews with members of each segment of the beef and marketing production chain and more than 3,700 online surveys to assess the level of beef producer participation in BQA practices.
The NBQA has been conducted every five years since 1991. Early audits focused almost exclusively on factors such as marbling, external fat, carcass weight and carcass blemishes. The 2011 audit shows early concerns, such as external and seam fat, is now less of a challenge due to changes in genetics and feeding practices that yield leaner carcasses. Furthermore, injection site lesions have been drastically reduced, and progress has been made in the reduction of other defects.
But the landscapes of the industry and society have changed through the years, and these changes have required attention on a different set of quality attributes--which the NBQA has addressed. For instance, the 2011 NBQA found increasing interest in humane animal treatment and where the animal was raised.
Several months ago a strategy workshop of 41 industry representatives who reviewed data from the research identified three pillars on which the industry must focus its quality efforts: eating satisfaction, product integrity and telling the industry story. The group said the industry must find ways of being transparent throughout the beef supply chain in order to assure product authenticity and ultimately maximize consumer trust.
Workshop participants were encouraged by many audit findings. For example, the audit found significant progress in preserving product integrity. About 98 percent of respondents no longer use electric cattle prods as a primary tool. About 85 percent of producers said they administer injections subcutaneously, and just in front of the shoulder. Both actions are long-recommended Beef Quality Assurance practices.
The audit also found that about 78 percent of producers had attended meetings where best practices were discussed, and of those cow-calf producers who had attended BQA sessions, 99 percent said they followed best management practices.
Barriers to success identified during the workshop were a low level of written protocols; balancing the needs of all industry segments; a lack of trust between industry segments; a disconnect with dairy, carcass inconsistency; no common language (among industry segments); and potential safety issues.
"It's been said that only that which is measured can be effectively managed," according to Jason Bagley, senior manager of beef quality at the Texas Beef Council. "This audit will help us correct quality shortfalls and non-conformance, which will lead to greater profitability through improved beef demand."
For more information about the BQA program in Texas, contact Jason Bagley at firstname.lastname@example.org. For information on national BQA efforts, or to read the 2011 NBCA Executive Summary, visit www.bqa.org.
Headquartered in Austin, TBC conducts the $1-per-head checkoff program for Texas beef producers. Its mission is to increase beef demand in the state through programs of beef promotion, research and education. TBC also helps fund national and international beef checkoff programs to increase marketing opportunities for the entire U.S. beef industry. For more information visit www.TexasBeef.org or call 800-846.4113.