The beef industry has changed dramatically over the past 20 years. Yet, in each National Beef Quality Audit (NBQA) the objective has remained the same: to measure industry progress on production issues that affect beef quality and, ultimately, consumer demand for beef. Today, the opportunities for our industry to make quality improvements are significant – in fact, the most recent 2011 NBQA, found that nearly $44 per head was “left on the table” due to lost quality opportunities.
In 1991 the checkoff-funded Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program conducted its first NBQA. The audits have centered on quantifying the performance of beef carcasses for value-enhancing characteristics; and identifying quality concerns about the physical attributes of beef, such as carcass blemishes and injection-site lesions. Historically, the audits have been conducted about every five years through harvest-floor audits and interviews with post-harvest beef supply-chain partners.
The 2011 NBQA added a new element – a producer benchmark survey to determine the adoption of BQA management principles. Some of the interesting findings relate to all sectors of beef and dairy producers and their use of animal health products and working relationships with veterinarians. Here are some audit highlights:
- Only 31 percent of respondents have written protocols for animal health treatment. More than half of feedlot respondents, and nearly 40 percent of the backgrounders use written protocols. Record-keeping will be an area of focus for future BQA programs.
- 90% of respondents say they have a veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) with the seedstock (96.8%), feedlot (93.0%) and dairy sectors (92.3%) reporting the highest response rates.
- 74% say they never use an animal health product other than as directed on the product label without a veterinarian’s direction. Among dairy producers, only 55 percent have never used a medication off-label.
- 87% of all respondents said their preferred location for injections was in front of the shoulder (neck). Dairy respondents had the fewest (46.4%) number of producers who prefer the neck region for injection.
- 77% of respondents sought answers to their questions from their veterinarian – for seedstock producers the number was nearly 85 percent while stocker producers only responded with 68.5 percent.
BQA is about doing things right, and the program has built on the audit findings to help beef producers provide safe, wholesome, quality beef. That’s why the checkoff-funded National Beef Quality Audit (NBQA) is so important. Here are the overall summary findings future BQA programs will target:
Pillars of beef chain success:
- Assuring eating satisfaction and product integrity is paramount.
- Doing a better job of telling our industry’s terrific story.
Barriers to continued progress:
- Low level of written protocols
- Balancing the needs of all industry segments
- A lack of trust between industry segments
- A disconnect with the dairy segment
- Carcass inconsistency
- No common language/communication barrier
- Potential food safety issues
- Poor story telling with consumers