As 2018 approaches, America's beef producers continue to emphasize quality through participation and certification in the national Beef Quality Assurance program. In many states that training, and certification are free to producers through the support of industry sponsors.
In Texas, for example, the BQA program is coordinated by three groups: Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and the Texas Beef Council. Sponsor of the program is Boehringer Ingelheim. It is always available to producers at no cost.
Stacy Fox, director of member programs at TSCRA, believes BQA's biggest value is in helping consumers understand how their food is raised, and providing a high quality product to the marketplace.
"BQA lets us hold up this example of what our industry is doing every day to show consumers we want to always do the right thing, and that we care about animal welfare. Ultimately it insures consumers they always have a high quality, safe product when it comes to beef."
Tracking that quality, and serving as a guide to the industry as to where improvement can be focused, a National Beef Quality Audit was started in 1991. This helps measure the impact of programs like BQA. Results of the industry's newest audit were released earlier this year. They showed continued improvement across most areas.
Industry estimates show somewhere between 80% and 90% of fed cattle in the U.S. are being raised following BQA guidelines. The most recent data shows that commitment continues to result in significant improvements.
Bruising on carcasses has improved significantly, with no or minimal bruising reported at 77% for 2017; up from 60.8% in 1991. Those with no horns were up to 83.3%, from 68.9% in 1991.
Other trends include more black-hided cattle (57.8%) and more Holstein cattle (20.4%) harvested. There was also more use of individual animal identification (95.6%).
Percentage of offal condemnations continues to be high, however, compared to the first audit. Last year liver condemnations were at 30.8%; lung condemnations at 18.2%; and viscera condemnations at 16.3%. Head and tongue condemnations improved when compared to 2011 reports, to 2.7% and 1.9%.
Injection site and bruise damage, especially in high-end cuts like the butt or loin, continues to be a high-priority area for the industry. Injection site damage can influence tenderness in a cut as much as 3 inches away from the injection site, and any injection into muscle can decrease quality and tenderness.
Today 86% of injections at the cow-calf and seedstock levels are given subcutaneously, and 87% of the time the placement is at the neck. BQA tips to avoid injection site damage include: use of proper restraint and facilities; placement of injections in front of the shoulders in the neck area; use of products labeled for subcutaneous administration instead of intramuscular; use of proper needle size and sharp needles; keeping injections at least 4 inches apart; and administering no more than 10 cc per injection site.
For more information or to find a BQA program near you, go to www.bqa.org
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