Beginning in 1991, the checkoff-funded National Beef Quality Audit (NBQA) has provided the industry a meaningful set of guideposts and measurements about the quality conformance of the U.S. beef supply. It is based on a set of core principles:
- Only that which is measured can be effectively managed
- An industry-wide scorecard provides direction to individual decision-makers across the beef supply chain to improve the quality and value of the U.S. beef supply
- Identifying and correcting quality shortfalls and non-conformance will lead to greater profitability through improved beef demand in both domestic and international markets, the capture of lost opportunities, and commitment to the hard work of continuous improvement
In each NBQA over the past 25 years, innovative approaches have been developed to create a more meaningful and robust set of results. The NBQA is more than just an exercise to assess where our industry stands on beef quality. It’s a roadmap to help drive all sectors of the industry forward and create more opportunities for all. The audits completed over the past 20 years paint a clear picture: We’ve come a long way as an industry in terms of improving beef quality. Changes suggested by the audit through the years are significant. The opportunities for further improvement — and success — are unmistakable.
Understanding the NBQA
There are three elements to the 2016 NBQA. Here’s a brief overview of each.
Face-to-face interviews with 194 representatives of the different market sectors (feeders, packers, retailers, foodservice operators and allied industry/government employees) were conducted from January through November, 2016, to help determine how seven different quality categories are defined, and also establish the relative importance and “must-have” requirements and “willingness to pay” quantifications for those qualities.
To assess the current quality and consistency status of U.S. fed steers and heifers, researchers evaluated about 8,000 live cattle for attributes related to transportation and mobility, and about 25,000 carcasses on the slaughter floor for characteristics that can affect quality and value of cattle, carcasses and by-products. This research was conducted at 17 U.S. beef processing facilities.
Researchers also studied 9,106 carcasses in 30 processing facilities to assess various characteristics that determine quality and value, including quality and yield grade, weight and marbling.
Finally, evaluation of instrument grading in 18 processing facilities from five companies was also conducted, with data reviewed that represented more than 4.5 million carcasses over a one-year period.
More than 70 representatives from every sector of the beef industry met in Denver December 13-15, 2016, to review results of the face-to-face and in-plant research and discuss implications for the U.S. beef industry. A strategy developed at that meeting provides the industry a blueprint for the next five years.
The BQA Story
The need to aggressively and proactively tell the beef community story was a key priority identified by participants in the NBQA Strategy Workshop. They recognized that a lack of proactive communication can result in negative images for beef and beef production. The industry has a good story to tell, and should continue to expand its efforts to tell it.
Beef Quality Assurance is an industry success story. We’re making progress, and regularly doing things right, while stepping up efforts to assure every producer is using these best practices. Beef producers operate on more than just the profit motive. Research indicates that most producers do things properly “because it’s the right thing to do.”
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