National Beef Quality Audit producer survey results and top priorities

The 2011 National Beef Quality Audit surveyed producers in all sectors of the industry on their practices.

The 2011 National Beef Quality Audit (NBQA) surveyed 3,755 beef producers from seedstock, commercial cow-calf, backgrounding, stocker/yearling, feedlot, dairy, and other producers on their Beef Quality Assurance practices and other quality related practices. An overwhelming 98.4 percent of respondents indicated they do not use electric prods as a primary driving tool. The preferred method of administering injections was subcutaneous for 84.2 percent of producers. The neck was the preferred injection site for 87 percent of operators. At least 87 percent had heard of Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) and 78 percent had attended at least one meeting where BQA was discussed. Of the respondents that had attended a session where they learned about BQA, 99 percent reported using best management practices that are consistent with BQA principles.

Recordkeeping methods for tracking withdrawal times of treated animals were by individual animal for 78.3 percent, 11 percent reported tracking an animal in a group, 9.1 percent said they tracked groups of cattle where individuals within the group had been treated, and 1.6 percent used more than one method of tracking. Written records were always used to track withdrawal times by 46.7 percent of producers, usually used by 26.9 percent, sometimes used by 14.8 percent and never used by 11.7 percent. One disconcerting result was that just over 25 percent indicated they would use medications off-label without direction from a veterinarian.

The 2011 NBQA also identified lost opportunities, dollars due to nonconformance with ideal targets, per head as follows: quality grade ($25.25), yield grade ($5.77), carcass weight ($6.75), hide/branding ($0.74), offal ($5.15) for a total of ($43.66).

After all results were compiled from all phases of the NBQA, a group of 41 individuals representing all aspects of the industry, including packers and retailers, were assembled to rank priorities for the industry. Top priorities for food safety and animal health, strategies to maximize eating quality and reduce variation, and strategies to optimize value and eliminate waste were ranked by participants. One priority includes working more with dairy producers on BQA principles. Overall, they concluded that the core pillars of value and opportunity were product integrity, eating satisfaction, and proactively telling the beef story.

The NBQA is funded with U.S. Beef Checkoff dollars to assess consumer attitudes about beef. Results are used to plan future BQA programming as well as identify challenges the industry faces and provide a current snapshot of the fed steer and heifer quality characteristics. Michigan State University Extension programs shared results from the 2011 NBQA with beef producers during recent meetings.

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