As the Beef Checkoff celebrates its 35th anniversary, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), a contractor to the Beef Checkoff, is shining a light on the successful promotion and research programs that drive the demand for beef. One such success is the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program, which has improved beef quality and increased consumer confidence for more than 30 years.
Managed by NCBA, the Checkoff-funded voluntary BQA program ensures U.S. beef is produced under stringent animal care standards to provide safe, high-quality meat. The BQA program trains farmers and ranchers on best practices and cattle management techniques to ensure their animals and the environment are cared for within a standard set of guidelines across the U.S. beef industry.
“The BQA program exemplifies what we, as beef farmers and ranchers, have always cared about - a commitment to caring for our animals and providing families with the safest and highest-quality beef possible,” said Chris Jeffcoat, Pennsylvania producer and co-chair of the Safety & Product Innovation Checkoff Committee. “Consumers can feel good knowing there’s a national program in place that sets consistent animal welfare and care standards across the beef industry.”
BQA is a comprehensive management program that incorporates responsible production practices in all phases of raising beef cattle. The program couples common sense cattle husbandry techniques with accepted scientific research to help farmers and ranchers raise cattle under optimum conditions. Cattle farmers and ranchers can become BQA certified by either attending a classroom training taught by a network of state BQA coordinators and trainers or completing a series of robust online courses.
BQA programs have evolved to include best practices around good record keeping and protecting herd health, which can result in more profits for producers. When better quality cattle leave the farm and reach the marketplace, the producer and consumer benefit. And, when better quality beef reaches the supermarket, consumers are more confident in the beef they are buying, and this increases beef consumption. For example, beef graded in the top USDA grades of Prime or Choice has increased 31% since the BQA program started.1 And, with more than 85% of the beef supply in the U.S. today coming from a BQA certified farmer or rancher, consumers should have the utmost confidence in the beef they purchase.2
Over the years, BQA has expanded to include Transportation and Stockmanship & Stewardship programs. The proper handling and transport of cattle can reduce sickness in calves, prevent bruises, and improve the quality of the meat from these animals, saving the beef industry millions of dollars each year. When a livestock hauler participates in the program, they are also showing consumers they are ready to take every step possible to keep cattle as healthy and safe as possible. Stockmanship and Stewardship is a unique two-day educational experience featuring low-stress cattle handling demonstrations, educational sessions, facility design sessions, and the events provide an opportunity for attendees to become BQA certified.
To celebrate the accomplishments of outstanding beef producers, marketers and educators that best demonstrate animal care and handling principles as part of the day-to-day activities on their respective operations, the National BQA Award was developed. These annual awards recognize those who demonstrate a strong desire to continually improve BQA on their operations while encouraging others to implement the producer education program.
The BQA program will continue to evolve and adapt to meet the changing needs of both producers and consumers, but it will always be focused on the goal of producing the highest quality cattle and providing consumers with the best possible eating experience, because “The Right Way is the Only Way.”