The 2005 National Beef Quality Audit (NBQA), funded by the Beef Checkoff, was conducted between July 2005 and June 2006 and benchmarks previous studies conducted in 1991, 1995 and 2000.

Highlights of the first audit in 1991 demonstrated that beef was too fat, too tough and too inconsistent to be competitive with pork and poultry. The 1995 audit helped provide evidence of factors in which producers were beginning to move the needle and in which direction. The 2000 audit suggested that producers had made progress in helping improve beef quality in several areas, including injection site lesions, herd health and managing genetics for reduction of fat. In fact, injection sites, which was the number two concern of purveyors, restaurateurs and retailers in 1991, wasn’t even in the top 10 in the 2000 audit.

Based on the results from the 2005 NBQA’s three phases, researchers in the 2005 NBQA identified the following industry goals and educational efforts as key to the success of improving beef quality and reducing non-conformity.

Industry goals

  • Clarify beef market signals that encourage production of cattle, carcasses and cuts that conform to industry targets.
  • Foster communication and understanding among industry groups and segments of the beef supply chain.
  • Move expeditiously toward source and age verification to build supply lines of cattle to fit domestic and export markets.
  • Minimize production of excess fat.
  • Strive for uniformity/consistency in cattle production.
  • Consider tenderness in genetic and management decisions.
  • Target weights that optimize profitability without creating productivity or product-desirability problems.
  • Recognize the importance of marbling as a value-determining trait.
  • Use results of instrument assessments of cattle, carcasses and cuts to make genetic and management
  • Select management practices that increase value.

Educational efforts

In keeping with the focus of the 2005 Audit to improve the educational capabilities of the Beef Quality Assurance program, the Beef Quality Assurance Advisory Board met in August 2006 and developed the following list of areas for BQA educational efforts that would help the industry “Stay on Track”:

  • Animal health product use.
  • Care, handling and transportation quality assurance.
  • Marketing opportunities.
  • Management practices to improve the safety, acceptability and quality of beef.
  • Recordkeeping.

Common themes

Common themes from the 2005 National Beef Quality Audit were:

  • The United States must compete in a global market.
  • Safe food is an expectation for domestic and international customers
  • We must have traceability for age/source/process verification.
  • We must move to instrument Yield and Quality grading.
  • There is great need for more producer education.
  • Cattle are too big, too fat and have too little marbling.
  • The beef chain is still segmented and disconnected from consumers.
  • The product delivered to the consumer is beef taste (flavor and tenderness).
  • The keys to retail merchandising of beef are color and appearance.
  • End-product goals must be balanced with production goals.

This information is excerpted from the Executive Summary of the 2005 National Beef Quality Audit. For more information, contact the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association at 303-694-0305.


The 2005 National Beef Quality Audit is a sequel to similar audits conducted in 1991, 1995 and 2000 of fed slaughter cattle for the U.S. beef industry. Information was obtained from seedstock generators, cow-calf producers, stockers/backgrounders and feedlot operators via questionnaires related to the top 10 quality problems facing the beef industry and changes made since 1991, 1995 and/or 2000 in genetic and/or management practices.

It also obtained information from packers, purveyors, foodservice operators, restaurateurs and/or supermarket operators, as well as key beef packing company personnel in charge of exporting and/or distributing beef products to international markets.

The 2005 audit will determine the extent to which changes have been made in, and by, the U.S. beef industry as compared to previous NBQAs. These results will identify those quality challenges upon which local, state, regional and national Beef Quality Assurance educational efforts should focus during the next five years.