New requirements for certification in the Beef Quality Assurance program are now in place for beef farmers who sell fed cattle across the U.S. to certain processors. Announcements were made in 2018 by Tyson, National Beef, U.S. Premium Beef and Cargill, which has led to an increase in BQA certifications in Wisconsin and nationwide.
Throughout the country, hundreds of thousands have now become BQA-certified through in-person and online training, with an estimated 80 percent of the U.S. fed beef supply now touched by BQA-certified operations. In Wisconsin, nearly 3,400 cattlemen and women have completed either online or in-person certification. The packer requirements represent their policy, not that of BQA or the Beef Checkoff program.
There are still a number of questions being asked across the state of Wisconsin about who needs certification. The requirements primarily impact those selling finished beef breeds of cattle. If you market fed cattle through a Wisconsin sale barn and there is a Tyson cattle buyer present to bid, the auction market will need to verify the cattle seller’s BQA (or equivalent) certification, according to Tyson Foods.
Programs that are considered to be equivalent to BQA certification include FARM Program — dairies that have completed a FARM Animal Care Version 3.0 (or newer) evaluation — and Youth for the Quality Care of Animals — youth cattle producers (ages 8-21) who complete the Youth for the Quality Care of Animals program are considered to have achieved BQA certification equivalency.
Even if the current requirement doesn’t impact you — perhaps you are a cow-calf producer or a dairy farmer selling finished Holstein steers — there is value in your voluntary completion of BQA. In a 2017 consumer image index survey completed by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, 64 percent of consumers mention a concern about beef production — including treatment of cattle, product safety and hormone or antibiotic use — they express uncertainty about what is being done on farms to ensure the quality and wholesomeness of the beef they are serving to their families.
The beef checkoff-funded BQA program was developed to ensure that beef and dairy cattle are raised in a manner that will result in safe and wholesome beef products for the consumer. Specifically, BQA is designed to enhance quality by preventing drug residues, injection-site blemishes and bruises. BQA is valuable to all beef and dairy producers because it demonstrates a commitment to food safety and quality, safeguards the public image of the industry, upholds consumer confidence in valuable beef products and enhances herd profitability through better management.
Online BQA training provides 24/7 access to the program through a series of videos and animation; go to www.bqa.org to get started. In addition, UW-Extension is continuing to offer a number of trainings to assist farmers in BQA certification. To view a list of trainings, go to https://fyi.extension.wisc.edu/wbic/calendar/.
If you have other questions about Beef Quality Assurance or are looking for a training in your area, you can contact the Wisconsin Beef Council office at 608-833-7177. The Wisconsin Beef Council is a producer-directed, not-for-profit organization funded by the $1 per head assessment on all cattle sold in the state of Wisconsin per the Federal Beef Promotion and Research Act and Order. Half of one dollar remains in Wisconsin for local beef promotion, while the other half is forwarded to the Cattlemen’s Beef Board.
The purpose of the Council is to fund beef promotion, research and consumer education activities supporting Wisconsin’s $2.1 billion beef industry. The WBC operates under the guidance of its board of directors. The board is composed of representatives from cattle-related organizations from around the state.
Tammy Vaassen is executive director of the Wisconsin Beef Council.