Beef Quality Assurance program ensures quality meat and improves profits

Processed steaks at the OSU Clark Meat Lab.

The national Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program, developed by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, is meant to promote safe and wholesome beef, raise consumer confidence and bring bigger profits. Major beef packing plants require BQA certification and some small-scale meat farmers in Oregon are using certification to promote their niche meat products. But many beef producers don’t have the certification.

In Oregon, the BQA certification is implemented by the Oregon State University Extension Service, which promotes BQA-approved best management practices. The certification is available to cow-calf operators, stocker operations, feedyards and transporters, who must participate in workshops and pass a BQA test before getting certified.

Beginning in January 2019, three major beef packers in Oregon required feedyard BQA certification. A year later, all transporters hauling cattle to major packers in the region had to be certified. There is a strong demand in Oregon cattle industry to get certified and Extension has a crucial role to play. The Oregon BQA Team was modified to equip Extension Service personnel and industry partners across Oregon to offer BQA certification.

In eastern Oregon in 2019, 80 cow-calf operators and 12 feedyard operators, six in English and six in Spanish, were certified. In addition, 26 producers were trained, and a poster presentation displayed in central Oregon as part of the 2019 Oregon Cattlemen’s Association conference. In western Oregon 71 producers were trained from 2019 to 2020.

Extension worked closely with Beef Northwest to ensure 22 feedyard workers had Spanish curriculum for BQA certification. Feedyards getting certified with new curriculum represent operations with a daily capacity of 100,000 fed cattle. Additional Extension participation went to training more Extension faculty, a veterinarian, an industry representative and two feedyard employees to become Oregon BQA Trainers.

The program improves consumer acceptance of beef and inspires beef producers to improve the safety and wholesomeness of beef. A recent study funded by Beef Checkoff dollars and conducted by Colorado State University showed a premium on cattle when marketed as raised by BQA-certified producers.