Which came first, the chicken or the bill?The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) in its May 30 Beltway Beef e-newsletter describes new legislation, the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012, that may pave the way for prescriptive animal raising standards.

The bill, introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on May 25, is modeled after a similar bill (H.R. 3798) that was introduced by Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) in the U.S House of Representatives earlier this year. These bills would codify a controversial agreement between the United Egg Producers (UEP) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) – an agreement that the major livestock organizations such as NCBA and the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and others oppose.

Livestock groups can see the writing on the wall that this type of legislation can lead to federal mandates directing producers how exactly to raise other livestock such as cattle and swine.

In the e-newsletter, NCBA Executive Director of Legislative Affairs Kristina Butts says, “We fully support any and all science-based advancements in animal welfare. However, a federal mandate is not needed to accomplish production practices that secure the wellbeing of livestock. This legislation is a one-size-fits-all approach to animal welfare and is the wrong answer. In fact, the World Organization of Animal Health (OIE) has even acknowledged mandated animal production practices are not in the best interest of promoting true animal welfare because they cannot easily be adapted or updated for different farming models. Prescriptive farming standards hinder efficient modifications as new science becomes available.”

In the beef and pork industries there are already many solid, even veterinary-driven programs such as Beef Quality Assurance (BQA), the Cattle Industry’s Guidelines for the Care and Handling of Cattle and the Pork Quality Assurance (PQA) Plus program. These programs are science-based, continuously updated and constantly being discussed with livestock producers and veterinarians.

For example, BQA principles are based on good management practices that are standard operating procedures designed to meet the United States food production system's needs. BQA programming focuses on educating and training cattle producers, farm advisors, and veterinarians on the issues in cattle food safety and quality. It also provides tools for verifying and documenting animal husbandry practices.

The federal government probably could not design a better program if it tried.

California cattleman Tom Talbot, DVM, says despite challenges cattle producers face, raising healthy cattle is and always has been a top priority. “The U.S. beef industry has changed through the years, but the one thing that remains the same is our commitment to raising healthy cattle and providing our animals the best care possible.”

“NCBA’s Cattle Health and Wellbeing Committee rely on the latest information from government officials, veterinarians and cattle health experts to ensure our policies reflect the latest science and ensure effective cattle care practices on cattle operations throughout the country,” says Talbot, who is also chairman of NCBA’s Cattle Health and Well-Being Committee. “Instead of mandating production practices and increasing regulatory burdens on America’s farmers and ranchers, we urge all U.S. Senators to reject this legislation and to work with food producers to enable them to continue raising the healthiest, safest and most wholesome food supply in the world.”

Read more about the Beef Quality Assurance program here.