From cottage businesses to multinational conglomerates, "quality" has become an institutionalized process for planning, production and marketing. In the U.S. beef industry, it's become a buzzword as producers and their organizations increasingly come to the realization that they are in the food business.

Survey after survey confirms that consumers want taste, tenderness, consistency and safety in the beef products they buy. It's a responsibility that reaches throughout the beef production chain, from retailer to processor to feedlot to backgrounder to the cow-calf and seedstock producer.

On the following pages of this special supplement, the BEEF editorial staff details the critical on-farm steps in "beef quality assurance (BQA)."

In addition, we have provided a list of contact people for BQA programs in your specific state or area. Or, look into the web sites and sources on page G for more BQA information.

You can also visit the BEEF web site at www.homefarm.com for more in-depth information.

Special thanks for this project go to the BEEF editorial staff, particularly Jenny Bushnell, who researched and prepared much of the material for this supplement.