The 2011 checkoff-funded National Beef Quality Audit, led by scientists from Colorado State University and Texas A&M University, is designed to collect and analyze information from cooler audits in the packing sector, face-to-face interviews with beef supply chain partners and for the first time cattle producers will be surveyed.
According to Tom Field, who manages the BQA program for the beef checkoff, producer input is integral to benchmarking what producers believe quality to be and how they affect the quality of the product in the end. Field tells us more in the following report.
“The National Beef Quality Audit has been designed from the very first audit in 1991, to create a benchmark and if you will a report card or a scorecard on how we’re doing as an industry relative to the factors that impact quality. This is a multi-tiered approach. We will be doing face-to-face interviews with the folks in the supply chain and cattle feeders where we’re actually going to try to quantify each segment of this industry views quality and where each segment is willing to invest dollars to pay for that quality. And so we’re going to be looking at this willingness to pay for quality factors which I think is really important to producers, so if they’re going to take their hard-earned money and focus on a target, we want to make sure we’re focused on targets that actually return people real value."
According to Field, the audit has been conducted about every four years, with the historic focus centered on quantifying the performance of beef carcasses for a number of value enhancing characteristics. Field said previous surveys have assisted in identifying challenges and opportunities for cattle producers and this year’s audit is once again taking the pulse of where we are as an industry.
“The second thing we’re going to do is we’re going to go back in and take a hard look at another round of cooler audits to make sure that we’re really quantifying defects like bruising and dark cutters and those sort of things. We’re going to be using more camera data than ever before so that we’ve got this really large mass of volume of data on quality and yield-grade factors. And then with producer feedback what we’re really looking to do is to be able to say, here’s where we are as an industry, here’s where we’re performing, and I think there are going to be three great outcomes to that.”
With a lofty goal of 10,000 producer responses, Field says the data collected for this Quality Audit will return many positives for the industry and for producers.
“Number one, I think there’s going to be a great positive story to be told that’s going to allow us to leverage that information to improve consumer and supply chain confidence in our product and to provide that sort of great, supporting evidence that in fact we are taking quality seriously, we are making progress in the quality that the supply chain wants, and that we are an industry that can be trusted to provide the very best beef in the world. The second thing is it will allow us to take a lot more clear look at how we fill maybe some educational gaps in our industry where there’s some places where maybe we’re going to need to make some improvement and that gives us an opportunity to take the limited resources we have and really build clear, strategic meaningful educational initiative in terms of their approach. And then finally, I think this is going to be a message that that can be sent to consumers that says, here’s how your beef supply and the beef supply chain function. Here’s the attitude of producers who create, from the minute that calf’s born, the best beef in the world for you as a consumer. And I think we really need to make a connection with consumers and this data is going to help us do that. I see this as building confidence; I see it as an opportunity for us as an industry to continue to be in continuous improvement mode.”
Producers should visit www.cattlesurvey.com to take part in the effort. The survey will remain open through the end of this year