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NBQA Goals Hit Close to Home

Posted Jul. 31, 2005

A local producer once shared a story with me about how frustrated he had become with some of his neighbors (and friends, for that matter) for not implementing best management practices, causing those friends to "leave money on the table." He went on to say some of these practices were so simple to implement, he couldn't believe they weren't doing them. "They are missing the boat, and it is right under their noses," he said. Well, it just so happened that his eight-year-old daughter was close by and she asked him, "Daddy, what boats are you missing that are right under your nose?" Ah, what you can learn from an eight-year-old if you will only listen.

Recently, I was reviewing the June 2005 issue of BEEF magazine, and I came across an article that made me think of the above story. It outlined the National Beef Quality Audits (NBQA) of 1991, 1995 and 2000, the progress we have made as an industry because of conducting these audits and where there still is room for improvement before the 2005 audit. These improvements came in the form of goals, or challenges, presented by a cross-section of experts in the beef industry. As I reviewed the 12 goals, I couldn't help but think: some of these things are so simple, the industry is missing the boat, it is right under their noses, why is it so difficult to do something so right? I then recalled the eight-year-old's question and realized many of these things are lacking in active Noble Research Institute cooperators' herds. It is right under our noses.

The latest NBQA (2000) pinpointed industry-wide losses due to quality defects at $114.92 per harvested animal, down from $137.50 in 1995 and $279.82 in 1991. These numbers note significant progress over the last nine years, primarily in the reduction of injection site blemishes, liver condemnations, dark cutters, bruised carcasses and hide damage from improper brand placement. Although progress has been made, obviously there is still room for improvement across all segments of the beef industry. Hence the question that begs to be answered, "What boats are we missing that are right under our noses?"

The NBQA goals are outlined below, and the panel challenged cattle producers to achieve them by the end of 2005.

  1. Eliminate USDA Standard quality grade carcasses.
  2. Eliminate USDA Yield Grade 4 and 5 carcasses.
  3. Eliminate injection site lesions from whole muscle cuts, including the chuck.
  4. Eliminate side-branded hides.
  5. Reduce horns to less than 5 percent of the fed cattle supply.
  6. Develop and implement a standardized electronic individual identification system.
  7. Develop an information system that allows audits to be conducted on individual herds.
  8. Seedstock animals that are accompanied by meaningful data for end-product traits.
  9. Assure that 100 percent of cattlemen complete BQA training.
  10. Eliminate bruises that result in a devaluation of subprimals.
  11. Improve transportation and handling equipment of cattle.
  12. Continually improve the eating quality of beef.

The implementation of these practices will surely lower that $114.92 figure and will make the industry stronger as a whole in the eyes of our customers those folks eating our product. So the next time you get ready to process a set of calves, buy a bull, purchase a set of heifers or ship a load of cattle, ask yourself the question "What boats am I missing that are right under my nose?" The answer may surprise you, if you will only look and listen.

For a complete article for your review, refer to BEEF, vol. 41, no. 10, June 2005, pgs. 28-32 or visit www.beef-mag.com.