Man I never did this good in school! Maybe it’s because in school it was hard to see the relevance of coursework to daily life. But Course Three of the Masters of Beef Advocacy program is 100% applicable to my daily life and work.

Beef safetywas the topic of MBA’s Course Three. It gave a great review of E.  coli, and what the industry is doing to prevent E.  coli contamination. It explained HACCP programs and the steps to prevent, control or eliminate those hazards, and the strict oversight by FSIS of federally-operated beef packing facilities.

The course also discusses BSE, what causes it, what human forms of spongiform encephalopathy are, the differences between them, and the safeguards in place for a BSE-free food supply. It talks about the role of the USDA and that 40,000 cattle a year are tested for BSE. 

FMD is another issue of concern that consumers have, even though FMD is not a human food safety concern as it only affects cloven-hoofed animals. Many consumers confuse FMD with BSE and think of it as a food safety risk. We need to explain that FMD is not a human health or food safety concern. It’s a high priority because it can spread quickly and affect a lot of livestock. As a testament to the vigilance against FMD, the last U.S. case was in 1929. 

It also talked about the Safe and Savory at 160 Degrees program program to help consumers handle, prepare and cook beef to prevent and risk of foodborne illness, the most important tool being described as an instant-read thermometer.   

My homework included developing a short list of local media contacts (I chose the food editor of the Kansas City Star and a local television news anchor who I know) in the event information about the beef industry needed to get out to those folks fast. I also answered questions in my own words about how to describe the beef industry’s efforts in preventing foodborne illness.

In other MBA news, since the January Cattle Industry Convention, more than 300 new students have enrolled in Masters of Beef Advocacy program, pushing current students to more than 1,300. More than 100 students graduated in the first three weeks of February (788 total since March 2009) and it is anticipated that more than 150 will complete the courses by the end of the month.

“We are very encouraged by the response to the program,” says Daren Williams, MBA “Dean of Students” and executive director of communications at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, contractor to the Beef Checkoff Program. “What this tells me that more and more people are preparing themselves to be informed advocates for farmers and ranchers and many of them are already engaged in grassroots efforts to sustain the future of our industry.”