“…for years the beef business and remaining producers have survived by shrinking total per-capita beef supplies enough to command prices that cover average costs. Survival and profitability in the future will depend on supplying the kinds of products which today’s consumers demand and doing it still more efficiently than in the past. The individuals who effectively initiate needed changes will be those who profit the most.”
Gary Smith, noted meat scientist and emeritus Monfort Endowed Chair of Meat Science at Colorado State University, made that statement in the inaugural 1991 National Beef Quality Audit (NBQA). It was repeated when results of the 2011 NBQA were released last summer. It bears pondering when considering the state of current industry stewardship.
In the case of the NBQA, driven by the industry’s checkoff-funded Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program, the message delivered by program results are as important as the results themselves.
“Consumers need to be assured that the industry is doing everything it can, on its own, with its own funding, to make sure we’re providing one of the best protein products in the world,” said John Maas, DVM, when the latest NBQA came out. Maas is a University of California-Davis Extension veterinarian and chaired the beef checkoff’s Joint Producer Education Committee.
Sure, since the first audit, BQA protocols have been the impetus behind the industry reducing carcass blemishes, injection-site lesions and other quality defects. But BQA also has gone a long way in helping consumers understand how seriously beef producers take their job of producing safe, wholesome, quality beef.
“The beef industry has made tremendous progress in its efforts to provide consumers with a safe, wholesome and nutritious product that continues to exceed expectations,” explained Craig Uden last summer. He’s an Elmwood, NE, producer who served as vice-chair of the Beef Promotion Operating Committee.
According to the 2011 NBQA, product shortfalls have more to do with the environment surrounding the product than the product itself.
Though it’s hard to quantify the impact directly, make no mistake that BQA has also helped foster the competitiveness of U.S. beef around the world.
“U.S. beef’s biggest selling points are quality and consistency,” says Joe Schuele, U.S. Meat Export Federation communications director.
“The U.S. product speaks for itself, but buyers want to know what it is about the U.S. system that ensures continued quality and consistency,” Schuele says. “BQA is one of the stories we share with international buyers.”
Even though 2012 beef exports were below the previous year’s record pace in terms of volume through the first 11 months, the value of those products set a new record-high. Through November, U.S. beef exports represented a value of $214.64/head of fed cattle harvested.
Imagine what beef demand likely would look like today – domestic and international – if producers had failed to impose their own self-improvement program when they did.
After you imagine that, if you aren’t already certified in BQA, get certified. It’s not just about you, it’s about the industry.
“It’s clear we need to do a better job telling our story – the story of beef production,” Uden says. “We need to be transparent about our methods, not just with consumers but also with each other. It’s important that we do a better job of sharing information between production segments and ensuring that market signals – the correct market signals – are being transmitted up and down the production chain.”
To see the full report, go to www.bqa.org/audit.aspx.