Knowledge is at our fingertips. When we pull up our Internet browser, no matter what question we may have, right or wrong, there is always an answer. Today, people want answers about their food—how it’s raised, if it’s local. Transparency is key and building consumer confidence is the biggest way we as a beef industry remain competitive at the meat counter.
The overall mission of the National Beef Quality Assurance Program is to build and improve consumer confidence in beef. That’s why as a cattle rancher, I think more producers should take advantage of this vital checkoff-funded program. I take great pride in caring for my cattle. Being a rancher is a fulfilling job, and I want the consumers who eat my beef to know I raised a wholesome, high-quality product that I am proud to feed my family, and they should feel confident feeding theirs.
Consumers want safe, high-quality beef that they know was raised with care. By taking the initiative and getting BQA certified, cattle producers are responding directly to this consumer trend. Several beef packers now request BQA certification from fed cattle suppliers, as a result of consumers wanting to know more about how their beef is raised. The BQA program is a producer-driven program that shows consumers this product was raised with integrity, and when we see an uptick in consumer beef purchases, it is a direct reflection of BQA building that consumer confidence.
Some out there today argue that becoming BQA certified is unnecessary or lacks economic incentive. I would argue the opposite. According to 2018 data taken from the CattleFax annual cow-calf producer questionnaire, operations that were BQA certified received $42 per head more than those who were not. BQA standards are constantly evolving to increase production efficiency and help beef producers improve their bottom line. Furthermore, we have seen a culture shift since the BQA program was first established. More and more cattlemen and women want others to see their dedication to producing value beef products.
Currently, there are over 200,000 beef producers who are BQA certified. That number continues to grow due to the rapid availability of training events across the country, as well as free online sessions. Regulations and red tape are not something and of us in the agriculture industry like to see. So, with the BQA program, we are making the proactive decision to raise our quality standards, reducing the need for someone who is not familiar with beef production to tell us how to do our job better.
At the end of the day, becoming BQA certified is the right thing for producers to do. We must take the steps to show we are responding to consumers and what drives their purchasing decisions.
As more information continues to become available, consumers will continue to want answers. We as a beef industry need to evolve with that purchasing trend and offer consumers the transparency and confidence they seek when they enter the grocery store. I am proud of my beef, and I believe other producers are as well. With the BQA certification, we can easily show it.
—Randall Debler is a cow-calf producer with Rock Hill Ranch, Alma, Kansas.