The 2005 National Beef Quality Audit (NBQA) indicates significant progress has been made by all industry segments to improve overall acceptance of beef carcasses entering fabrication at U.S. processing facilities. But the 2005 NBQA suggests there is still work to be done. The following 2005 NBQA nonconformities (lost opportunities) are based on a carcass base value of $130/cwt. and average carcass weight of 796 lbs.

A particular concern in the 2005 NBQA is carcass weights, which continue to climb. The average carcass weight in the 2005 audit was nearly 796 lbs. — nearly 40 lbs. heavier than the 1991 audit. The recent audit found average weight for steer carcasses was 817 lbs., and 758 lbs. for heifers.

In addition, Yield Grade 4 and 5 carcasses are up 2% from the 2000 NBQA and up 6% from the 1995 audit.

“We're not winning the war on fat. Not yet,” says Oklahoma State University meats scientist Brad Morgan. “Cattle generally go to market fatter. About 15% are too fat, but still may not be marbled well enough.”

1991 1995 2000 2005
Quality grade -$39.93 -$41.79 -$39.71 -$26.81
Yield grade -$24.60 -$10.27 -$18.32 -$20.92
Carcass weight -$3.74 -$3.85 -$2.33 -$4.94
Hide/Branding -$1.17 -$1.21 -$1.27 -$0.98
Offal -$0.76 -$0.89 -$2.07 -$2.03
Total lost opportunities/head -$70.20 -$58.01 -$63.71 -$55.68

“The Cattle Industry's Guidelines for the Care and Handling of Cattle” is available from the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. The 15-page, checkoff-funded effort includes sections on industry-developed standards for feeding and nutrition, disease-prevention practices and health care, transportation, handling downer cattle, euthanasia techniques, and stress reduction. It also contains a producer self-evaluation.

The publication's Code of Cattle Care lists general recommendations for care and handling of cattle:

  • Provide necessary food, water and care to protect the health and well-being of animals.

  • Provide disease-prevention practices to protect herd health, including access to veterinary care.

  • Provide facilities that allow safe, humane, and efficient movement and/or restraint of cattle.

  • Use appropriate methods to humanely euthanize terminally sick or injured livestock and dispose of them properly.

  • Provide personnel with training/experience to properly handle livestock.

  • Make timely observations of cattle to ensure basic needs are met.

  • Minimize stress when transporting cattle.

  • Keep updated on advancements and changes in the industry to make decisions based upon sound production practices and consideration for animal well-being.

  • Persons who willfully mistreat animals will not be tolerated.

Contact your state Beef Quality Assurance coordinator or state beef council for a copy. For more info, contact Ryan Ruppert at 303-850-3369.