The 2005 National Beef Quality Audit shows we’re gaining some ground in beef quality (such as the reduction of injection site lesions and carcasses bruising), but we still haven’t hit the mark in all areas. On page 32 of this issue, information is excerpted from the NBQA Executive Summary.

I wanted to dig a little deeper into what this information means for the future, so I walked a whole 10 feet to the office next door of my colleague, Greg Henderson, editor and associate publisher of Drovers, who has followed the quality trail very closely within his publication.   

“The 2005 NBQA identifies several areas that need improvement,” explains Henderson. “The greatest quality challenges continue to be insufficient marbling, low quality grades, lack of uniformity and inadequate tenderness. Improving genetics has been identified by several industry segments as a way to improve beef’s overall quality. But packers continue to cite lack of uniformity and carcass weights that are too heavy as obstacles to improving beef’s overall quality.”

The Quality Audits show that while quality grade has increased only marginally, carcass weights have continually increased from about 713 lbs. in 1989 to 769 lbs. in 2005. Rising carcass weights suggest that producers are still being paid for pounds. “That may change dramatically in the next Audit as higher corn prices may shift the incentives for lengthy feeding periods,” says Henderson.

Where health fits in

Of particular interest to veterinarians, the 2005 Quality Audit also called for continued focus on animal health programs that improve quality and reduce defects. The impacts on performance and carcass quality of animal health programs are well-documented, yet animal health remains the number-one production problem in the feedyard.

“Feeders want their suppliers -- cow-calf and stocker operators -- to look at animal health programs as an investment rather than a cost,” notes Henderson. “All of the production sectors are encouraged to improve vaccination programs, provide incentives for preconditioning, improve handling practices and maintain management and health records
on cattle.”

The National Beef Quality Audits show that America’s beef industry has made significant improvements in beef’s overall quality over the past 15 years. Improving quality, however, is a never-ending process, says Henderson. “The Quality Audits also reveal sig-nificant opportunities exist for even greater quality improvements that can provide financial rewards for all stakeholders.”

For more information on beef quality, visit the Beef Quality Connection Web site .

Geni Wren, Editor
gwren@food360.com

Next issue of Bovine Veterinarian: May 2007