In the second issue of BEEFVet it’s only fitting we acknowledge one of the most significant contributions veterinarians have made to the beef industry. Without veterinarians passionate about making change, the initial National Beef Quality Audit and the subsequent Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) initiatives may not have happened. Or, the improvements would not have taken center stage for more than a quarter century.

For those of us who remember the state of the beef industry before the National Beef Quality Audit , the progress is truly remarkable. We didn’t know what we didn’t know until signals came from consumer segments to tell us we had a problem. Historically, on any given day the beef industry can’t agree on much of anything. Yet, as a result of the driving force of NBQA, every segment of beef production has used its synergies to accomplish dramatic, sustained progress.

Thanks to a small group of passionately committed veterinarians, the feeding sector, progressive beef producers, university researchers and packers, sound BQA policy and a workable infrastructure were established. Anyone invested in making change recognized the paradigm shift recommended in almost every nuance of live cattle production. Everyone knew the change would not happen overnight and the pushback from those not-so-invested in change could be serious. However, the signals coming down the food chain indicated the do-nothing alternative was potentially even more serious.

Wes Ishmael’s article, Birthing Industry Survival, is the first of a three part installment drilling down to the very core of BQA. Almost all consumers would be clueless to the product improvements made to their beef choices in the meat case. In some respects, that’s probably a good thing. However, it should be a prerequisite for anyone involved in beef cattle production, to know how the industry has moved from an inconsistent commodity to a genetically improved, safe, healthy, value added center of the plate creating a preferred dining experience. This was all made possible by acknowledging problems, finding solutions and developing a roadmap for improvement.

The common thread throughout the history of BQA (and moving forward) is the veterinarian. Veterinarians will continue to identify problems, find solutions and influence our best practice model for animal health, welfare and processing. Veterinarians will evaluate new products, take advantage of technology and continue to stay abreast of industry changes through continuing education.

The most important opportunity in the future may be the potential to capitalize upon the intrinsic respect for the veterinary profession. Who better to be the conduit of information to the consumer than the veterinarian? Jennifer Ryan’s article, Representing Rural America, illustrates the importance of veterinarians willing to position themselves front and center to address consumer concerns and face difficult media questions head on.

Christy Couch Lee tackles the growing issue of stifling debt facing young graduates. We all know servicing debt, regardless of your profession, will continue to dictate where young graduates decide to practice and establish lifelong roots. Whether it’s vet school, law school, med school, public school educator or any other professional, a young graduate’s options may depend on the community’s willingness to be creative during the recruiting process.

Sustainability is definitely a buzzword used in lock step with agriculture these days. Kim Holt examines sustainability as it relates to a rural veterinary practice. What better sources than young adults anxiously waiting a turn at success?

One indefatigable and, really, irreplaceable ingredient in the food animal production system is the veterinarian. The ability of the beef industry to meet the challenges of feeding a growing global population may rest in the degree to which we are willing to go to support the veterinary profession.