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The national Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program is a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points-based program that has been funded by beef producers through the Beef Checkoff program since 1986. The original intent of the program was to develop a beef safety program to prevent antimicrobial residues and improve beef safety by also avoiding residues from other compounds associated with farming and ranching.
About five to ten years after the BQA program had launched, BQA program researchers, packers and ranchers started to study the physical damage of beef products due to improper injection site locations and administration of injections. This program stimulated a national injection site producer education effort. Many states developed their own BQA programs and some states still support BQA state coordinator positions to provide outreach to farmers and ranchers.
In 2006, the BQA advisory board decided to sync up the individual state programs and develop a national BQA program to provide consistency between state programs, as cattle are traded across state lines on a daily basis. While developing the national BQA program, it was clear that food safety and antibiotic residue avoidance would be staples, but the movement was made to involve animal welfare measurements and best management practices (BMP).
Today’s national BQA program offers producer and practitioner education in face-to-face meetings or through a national online BQA program, which has already had over 10,000 beef producers enroll. The latest expansion of the BQA program was the development of the cow-calf, stocker and feedlot self-assessment tools for operation level implementation.
The combination of individual education and the assessment tool follow through has been greeted with open arms by producers, while serving as an instrument to assure the beef consumer that we are advanced in our practices and implement them to provide a safe, wholesome beef product from humanely raised cattle. All of these programs can be found at www.BQA.org or the online training can also be found at www.AnimalCareTraining.org.
Animal welfare is animal husbandry
Many people have tried to define animal welfare. Animal rights groups have tried to confuse consumers, producers and lawmakers by using animal welfare, animal rights and animal abuse as interchangeable terms—they are not.
Animal welfare is animal husbandry. Animal welfare is providing nutrition, shelter, preventative medicine and doing what is best to raise a healthy, well-cared-for animal in an ever changing environment. These practices are not one size fits all. Animal welfare practices are a farm-by-farm, rancher-by-rancher and animal-by-animal decision. Receiving continuing education and documenting practices on the farm and ranch are important for us all as we continue to improve our industry.
The heart and soul of the BQA program starts with a valid veterinary-client-patient relationship. Whether involving castration methods, dehorning techniques, herd health, or nutrition recommendations, the beef veterinarian is central to helping producers and ranchers continue to stay abreast of animal health and well-being practices.
Many groups are trying to capitalize on animal welfare and BQA programs. However, this producer-funded program that has been around for 25 years, combined with a veterinary relationship, is what the consumer desires for assurance of our farm animals’ well-being and safety of our food. BQA started out as the quality assurance of beef products and has evolved into the assurance of quality beef for the consumer.