Beef quality assurance: Michigan producer questions and answers
Changing beef cattle sale requirements have people asking questions.
It is every beef and dairy producer’s obligation to utilize management and judgment that ultimately leads to a safe and positive eating experience for beef consumers. Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) is a voluntary program, promoted through the Beef Checkoff since 1982, to educate on accepted management skills and scientific knowledge to prevent beef product defects. The program’s goal is to ensure that all cattle are healthy, wholesome and safe; managed to meet USDA, FDA, and EPA standards; produced with environmentally-sound production practices; and handled within acceptable animal welfare guidelines. BQA certification is presently being imposed as a beef supplier requirement by some food service customers, because it safeguards the health, safety and wholesomeness of beef products.
Which beef buyers (processors) in our region require BQA certification?
Cargill Meat Solutions, Wyalusing, PA, and Tyson Fresh Meats Inc., Joslin, IL are requiring BQA certification. These processors buy cattle from Michigan livestock auction markets as well as farm direct. Other processors may soon have similar requirements. Tyson has announced additional BQA Transportation (BQAT) certification requirements that will begin January 1, 2020.
Can I sell animals without being BQA certified?
You may sell cattle without BQA certification. However, non-dairy fed cattle (steers & heifers) sold by non-certified beef operations will likely have fewer bidders at livestock auction markets, and cattle prices may reflect this reduced interest.
If I sell calves, cull cows or bulls, dairy, or dairy-cross cattle, do I need to be BQA certified?
The cattle buyers (processors) listed above typically purchase only beef breed fed cattle. Recognize, if other processors add BQA certification requirements, this situation may change.
What type of BQA certification is required?
As of January 2019, there are five different online modules available at bqa.org: Cow-Calf, Stocker, Feedyard, Dairy (a planned update may merge these modules in the future), and Transportation. The processors above are requesting that fed cattle sellers complete the “feedyard” certification. Note, BQA and BQA Transportation are separate certifications.
Whose responsibility is it to ensure that, as a seller, I am identified as BQA-certified at the sale?
The cattle seller is responsible for notifying the auction of their BQA certification number upon delivery of the cattle.
Are there other programs that are deemed equivalent to BQA certification?
Yes, certification in the F.A.R.M. 3.0, Youth for the Quality Care of Animals, or Verified Beef Production Plus (Canada) programs are recognized as being equal to BQA certification. Although not a processor requirement, FARM 3.0 certified dairy producers feeding dairy steers, heifers, or cull cows for harvest are encouraged to complete BQA certification.
Do I need to be BQA Transportation certified if I haul my animals to the auction market?
Beginning January 1, 2020, Tyson will require drivers that unload cattle at their processing plants to have BQA Transportation certification. Presently, this requirement does not extend to delivery to intermediate points.
How do I become certified?
- You may complete the certification online. Register and complete the free online BQA feedyard training and certification at bqa.org. After completing the training and passing the quiz, a certificate may be printed. A copy of this certificate, including BQA certification number, must be presented to auction market staff prior to selling cattle as BQA certified.
- You may complete the certification at an in-person meeting. Training/certification meetings are being held as a cooperative effort of Michigan auction markets, Michigan Beef Industry Commission, and MSU Extension Beef Team, and consist of 2 hours of instruction, a quiz, and ability to receive on-site certification. See https://www.canr.msu.edu/beef_quality_assurance/bqa-meetings for dates and registration contacts.
This article was published by Michigan State University Extension. For more information, visit https://www.canr.msu.edu/outreach. To have a digest of information delivered straight to your email inbox, visit https://www.canr.msu.edu/outreach. To contact an expert in your area, visit https://www.canr.msu.edu/outreach/experts, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).