The Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) Program grew from its 1980 start as a Beef Safety Assurance Program (residue avoidance) in five states to a national education program. From the first Quality Audit in 1991 that pointed to injection sites and “defect avoidance, “ education became key in moving beef quality and safety forward. Why it’s so successful is that it’s not a government program, it’s a producer-driven program.

In a recent Beef Quality Assurance webinar, Dee Griffin, DVM, MS, spoke about the BQA program then and now. “Nothing is more important than having safe product, and we as an industry are in charge of our product,” Griffin said.

Essentially, the BQA guidelines are to minimize chemical, physical and microbiologic defects. Griffin says the Best Management Practices of the BQA program are in common language that producers can understand and are the absolute foundation of the program. “All of these things that our great-grandfathers taught us years ago, all of those things we learned in FFA and 4-H on how to take care of these wonderful creatures that are a gift from God and we don’t have many of those defects that humans didn’t create."

Griffin gave bullet points on the BQA Best Management Practices:
1. Proper care and husbandry practices.
2. Feedstuffs that are contamination free.
3. Feed additives/medications that follow all FDA rules.
4. Health product use: Vaccines, medications and pesticides that are approved and according to label directions.
5. Records that are kept and maintained for a period of time, including standard operating procedures.
6. Management outliers – make sure animals that have had additional treatments are cleared of any residues via records and tests.

BQA efforts don’t end because injection sites in cuts of beef are now pretty much under control and reduced to a negligible level. Griffin said BQA programs are now looking at issues such as seam fat, tenderness, bruising, improving cutability, lack of standardization, low-stress cattle handling, etc.

Online animal care training is also available through the Beef Cattle Institute at Kansas State University and the BQA program. Visit www.animalcaretraining.org for more information.

The BQA documents including transportation guidelines, audits, feedyard assessment and more can be downloaded or requested at www.bqa.org/resources.aspx. Visit www.bqa.org for a list of state BQA coordinators and much more.

Geni Wren
Editor, Bovine Veterinarian Magazine