The first National Beef Quality Audit was done in 1991 and has continued to be conducted every five years. Funded by beef check-off dollars from producers, it’s an extensive survey that assesses the beef industry’s work to improve beef quality, focusing on advances that have been made on production issues that influence consumer demand for beef. Jeff Savell is a Texas A&M Distinguished Professor of Meat Science.
“Fatness was one of the things that showed up in the early audits, you know, what you can do to reduce the amount of external fat, the amount of seam fat in cuts. You know, some toughness things that would show up. Injections, making sure producers and veterinarians applied vaccinations and other kinds of injections properly. And that’s now kind of a non-event.”
Savell says that a number of things have improved over the twenty-five years the audit has been done.
“There’s a reduced amount of fat that the consumer sees. The quality of cuts, the actual percent of prime and choice is at an all-time high over the twenty-five years.”
Another thing that the National Beef Quality Audit does is measure missed opportunities.
“What happens if you miss targets, as far as quality grades, or the fat content, or condemnations of by-products and things like that? And so every year when we do this there is some number that, it may not always be attainable, but it helps producers understand that if we could correct these deficiencies and start hitting these particular targets, then there’s more opportunity for greater revenue.”
But today, for restauranteurs, retail marketers, packers, and processors, safety is the number one concern.
“Food safety is something that they’re always looking at managing, trying to make sure that the product that gets to the end consumer is as safe as possible. So I think that’s why in the 2016 audit it’s at the very top because it’s the thing. If it’s not safe, all these other quality factors don’t matter.”