U.S. beef producers have improved the quality of beef and reduced the frequency of producer-caused quality problems since the mid 1990s. As a result, the 2000 National Beef Quality Audit (NBQA) found that the industry had reduced the costs due to quality defects in fed cattle by 15%.

Much of that improvement resulted from producers doing a better job in diminishing damage from injection-site lesions, bruises, dark cutting carcasses and horns, researchers found. The results of the checkoff-funded study came on the heels of the National Beef Tenderness Survey, which found that beef tenderness has improved by 20% since 1990.

The NBQA listed 10 areas of beef quality that need more improvement. These include:

  • Low overall uniformity and consistency of cattle, carcasses and cuts.

  • Carcasses more than 950 lbs. in weight.

  • Inadequate tenderness in beef.

  • Insufficient marbling.

  • Reduced quality grade and beef tenderness caused by overaggressive implanting, poor animal health and inappropriate weight loss.

  • Excess external fat cover.

  • Inappropriate USDA quality grade mix.

  • Hide damage due to brands.

  • Too frequent and severe bruises.

  • Too frequent liver condemnations.

The next NBQA will be in 2005.

Need the lowdown on Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE)? Check out the Web site www.BSEinfo.org. There you'll find information on BSE, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) and variant CJD. The site contains information reviewed by experts in veterinary medicine, prion/protein studies, neuropathology and disease surveillance, as well as links to other BSE-related sites worldwide.

The movement of people, animals and animal products for trade is leading to increased spread of animal diseases worldwide. Numerous examples of livestock diseases diagnosed for the first time outside their “normal” areas of origin were cited in a recent United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report.

The cross-border transmissions might be the source of some deadly human health consequences in the Third World, the group says. FAO says no country, however, is safe and urges support for veterinary surveillance systems and services for early disease detection and the preparation of contingency plans to contain outbreaks. Check out: www.fao.org/waicent/faoinfo/agricult/aga/agah/empres/empres.htm

Ken Monfort, the beef industry innovator who pioneered boxed beef, passed away Feb. 2. The former CEO of Monfort of Colorado, Inc., was 72. Monfort succeeded his father Warren as CEO in 1970 and developed the business into a Fortune 500 company.

Nearly two-thirds of beef producers support the checkoff, according to the semi-annual Producer Attitude Survey. Conducted for the Beef Board by Aspen Research, Boulder, CO, the research found that 65% approve of the checkoff, while 21% disapprove. That's a support level basically unchanged from January 2000.

Nearly 60% of producers believe the beef industry is headed in the right direction, while 31% believe the industry is headed in the wrong direction.

When asked why they support the checkoff, the majority of producers cited the benefits of advertising, consumer education and research programs. Completed in January 2001, the research has a margin of error of ±2.6%.

Europe's BSE problems could mean 200,000 metric tons of beef sales opportunity for the U.S., in both Europe and the markets traditionally supplied by Europe. Phil Seng, president and CEO of the U.S. Meat Export Federation, says the BSE crisis in Europe is raising interest in U.S. beef “because they trust the safety of our product.” He admits, however, that realizing that level of EU market access will be difficult unless the EU relaxes its ban on growth promotants.

The Certified Angus Beef (CAB) program moved 555 million lbs. of product in 2000. That volume was moved by 8,000 licensed restaurants and retail stores in the U.S. and 52 export markets, says Jim Riemann, CAB president. He says CAB accounted for more than 75% of the beef tonnage sold through 49 USDA-certified programs in 2000.

This monthly column is compiled by Joe Roybal, 952/851-4669 or e-mail jroybal@intertec.com.