New Beef Quality Audit

Food Safety and Sustainability Key Issues for Today's Beef Industry

The quantity of beef graded Prime and Choice has continued to increase, while that grading Select has decreased. (DTN/Progressive Farmer file photo by Joel Reichenberger)

A new National Beef Quality Audit (NBQA) is complete, providing plenty of comparisons to the last audit, released in 2016. These national Beef Checkoff-funded audits have been ongoing since 1991. They focus on quality conformance of the U.S. beef supply.

Initial findings released by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA), indicated that overall, the U.S. beef industry continues to provide a quality product to consumers.

Josh White, senior executive director of producer education and sustainability at NCBA, reported that over the years, concerns around food safety, sustainability, animal well-being and the disconnect between producers and consumers have grown. That has led to changes in the focus of the research being done for the audit, with the emphasis expanding beyond carcass traits.

Based on individual interviews with stakeholders from across the cattle industry, White reported key findings for fed cattle from the 2022 NBQA included the following points:

-- Food safety is an expectation, not a purchase criterion with consumers today.

-- Between the NBQA for 2016 and this most recent audit, the largest improvement seen was an overall increased efficiency across beef's supply chain.

-- Companies are striving to increase their sustainability and are working with the entire beef supply chain in this goal.

-- Due to COVID-19 pandemic pressures, more cattle over 30 months of age were harvested.

-- Foreign materials continued to present problems.

-- More electronic identification was in use.

-- Prime and Choice quality grades increased; Select decreased.

-- The quality of beef being produced is being accompanied by increased carcass weight and fat thickness, and large increases in percentage of Yield Grade 4 and 5 carcasses.

The full NBQA report had not been released at publication time. To read more about the Audit, go to