By John F. Grimes
What is Beef Quality Assurance (BQA)? BQA is a nationally coordinated, state implemented program that provides systematic information to U.S. beef producers and beef consumers of how common sense husbandry techniques can be coupled with accepted scientific knowledge to raise cattle under optimum management and environmental conditions.
BQA is certainly not a new program. The precursor to BQA, “Beef Safety Assurance”, originated in the late 1970’s and through the 1980’s emphasized targeting real and perceived beef safety issues. The primary emphasis of the program was educating stakeholders about the proper use of pharmaceutical products and the honoring of withdrawal times. BQA programs as we know them today began in the early 1990’s.
Current BQA programming is expanding with information to help producers implement best management practices that improve both quality grades and yield grades of beef carcasses. USDA Quality Grading is a composite evaluation of factors including carcass maturity, firmness, texture, and color of lean, and the amount and distribution of marbling within the lean. These factors affect the palatability of meat. USDA Yield Grading show differences in the total yield of retail cuts. Yield grades estimate the amount of boneless, closely trimmed retail cuts from the high-value parts of the carcass – the round, loin, rib and chuck.
While the target audience for BQA educational programs is the producer, the ultimate priority is today’s consumer. In addition to helping the producer add value to their market animals, BQA can help build a positive public image and instill consumer confidence in the beef industry. If the beef industry produces a quality beef product, it can meet the consumer’s expectations for eating and preparation characteristics. The government is also the beef industry’s partner in this process by providing inspection services that help insure a safe and wholesome product that is correctly labeled and packaged.
If you have been following the national agricultural press or Extension program offerings over the past several months, it is hard to miss that there has been a significant increase in interest in the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program. This has become a reality because consumers are concerned for animal health and the sustainability of the system that their food comes from.
How important is the voice of the consumer? Their concerns have resulted in Tyson Foods, who harvest and process 25% of the U.S. beef market share, and also Wendy’s, now the second largest fast food hamburger chain in the U.S., both announcing that beginning in 2019 they will be sourcing beef from producers who are Beef Quality Assurance certified. The consumer’s voice is being heard and it is influencing how we implement our management practices at the farm level.
In response, Ohio State University Extension is working in cooperation with the Ohio Beef Council, the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association and Ohio’s cattle auction markets and collection points to offer Ohio’s cattlemen several opportunities to become Beef Quality Assurance certified. Thus far in 2018, approximately 1,500 individuals in Ohio have become BQA certified. For those looking for more information on BQA, head to the OSU Extension Beef Team’s web page located at: http://beef.osu.edu/ . Click on the “BQA” tab at the top of the home page to see a listing of certified BQA instructors across the state. You can also click on the “Events/Programs” tab to find a listing of BQA programs and other events scheduled across Ohio.
There is also a national Beef Quality Assurance web site located at: https://www.bqa.org/ . You can become BQA certified through online training opportunities at this web site. Depending on your particular area of interest, you can become BQA certified with an emphasis in one of the following areas: Cow-Calf, Stocker, Feedyard, Dairy, or Transportation. Once you have attended a BQA training event in person or completed an online certification course, you will receive a personalized card with information that verifies your certification status.
I am excited that OSU Extension’s Beef Team, the Ohio Beef Council, and the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association have joined forces to emphasize the importance of beef producers becoming BQA certified. It is a logical step for producers to take towards the goal of producing quality beef for today’s consumer. However, all beef producers need to realize that quality is not just a name in the BQA title.
BQA is much more than knowing the proper way of giving vaccinations in the animal’s neck. Quality should be a priority in every step of the beef production system. This includes management decisions relating to herd health, nutrition, animal handling, reproduction, genetics, and marketing.
There are those individuals that will pursue the easiest or simplest methods to raise and market beef to the consumer. Unfortunately, I do not believe that is a sustainable business model for the beef industry. The consumer is becoming increasingly particular as to how they spend their dollars for several different sources of protein. They want a safe, wholesome product with excellent nutritional value for the dollar spent and provides great taste. If the beef industry emphasizes quality at every angle of production process, we will have a very satisfied customer!