WEST PLAINS, Mo. — Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) is a national program funded by the Beef Checkoff, with programs tailored by individual states specifically to dairy and beef industry professionals according to Elizabeth Picking, field specialist in livestock with University of Missouri Extension.
BQA works to teach best management practices to all beef and dairy industry participants, including producers, feedlot personnel, and cattle transporters to provide the public with safe, high-quality beef that consumers can trust.
“As consumers have become more concerned about the safety of their food products, more scrutiny has and will continue to be put on the producers and suppliers of beef to provide consumers a safe, wholesome product that was humanely raised,” said Picking.
The national beef quality audit in 2016 suggested that the following considerations were of the largest challenges facing the beef industry: food safety, eating satisfaction, lean, fat, and bone, weight and size, how and where cattle were raised, and visual characteristics.
“This trend towards food safety and traceability has led many packers including Tyson (No. 1 beef processor of fed cattle) to require the feedlots and cattle haulers they work with to be BQA certified,” said Picking. “For example, Tyson supplies Wendy’s which has committed to use 100% BQA sourced beef.”
Further, Tyson will require all transporters to be BQA transportation certified by January 1, 2020. National Beef Packing Co. (No. 4 beef processor) is following the suit with Tyson. JBS (No. 2 beef processor) and Cargill (No. 3 beef processor) are going to require BQA certifications shortly.
“While cow-calf producers are not currently being required to be BQA certified to sell their cattle, if sale barns are pushed to provide BQA certified beef, then cow-calf producers could be affected,” said Picking.
However, Picking notes that implementing these best practices can increase profit margins on cattle by optimizing herd health and productivity. Furthermore, a BQA certification can increase the value of marketed cattle.
Once completed, a BQA certification is valid for three years. Anyone interested in getting BQA certified can attend in-person trainings scheduled in different locations around Missouri or complete the certification online. The online certification can be found at https://www.bqa.org/certification.
Opportunities to become Beef Quality Assurance Transportation (BQAT) certified can be found online at https://bqatransportation.beeflearningcenter.org/ for those who are interested in learning more about cattle handling, unloading and loading, cattle sickness and injury, and travel checklists.
Another program offered by the BQA initiative is the Stockmanship and Stewardship training where producers can get hands-on training on correct and low-stress cattle handling. More information about these training taking place across the country can be found at https://www.stockmanshipandstewardship.org/.
“Regardless of the stage of beef production, completing either the online or in person BQA training provides another avenue of cattle marketing and makes steps toward providing safe, high-quality beef that consumers can trust were humanely raised,” said Picking.
For more information, contact any of the MU Extension livestock field specialists in southwest Missouri: Eldon Cole in Lawrence County, (417) 466-3102; Andy McCorkill in Dallas County at (417) 345-7551; Dr. Randy Wiedmeier, in Ozark County at (417) 679-3525; Elizabeth Picking in Howell County at (417) 256-2391 or Dr. Patrick Davis in Cedar County at (417) 276-3313.
— Elizabeth Picking, University of Missouri Extension
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