The Beef Quality Assurance Program has been in place in feed yards and packing facilities for many years but around 2000 Texas took the lead with the program being offered on a voluntary basis to cow/calf producers. It’s now available nationwide to producers to train them in production practices that may affect the quality, and more importantly the food safety aspect of the beef that they produce. Jason Cleere is an associate professor and Texas A&M AgriLife beef cattle specialist.
“It’s based off of HACCP principles that NASA developed, Hazardous Analysis of Critical Control Points. NASA developed those HACCP programs because an incident in space is a lot different than an incident on the ground. So it may be just a small little blister, but when you get to space it becomes a huge problem, and so that’s the same thing on the food side, and so it was adopted by the packers, the meat processing and food service people, but we took that step further on the production side.”
Cleere says that the goal is to prevent a food safety problem prior to it actually happening. Initially aside from safety and quality, the Beef Quality Assurance program also focused on the environment.
“The big part of the beef industry and sustainability is, taking care of our natural resources, and so environmental stewardship was another component of it. Making sure that we’re doing the right thing in managing our range conditions, our forage conditions, eliminating erosion, those kinds of things.”
Cleere points out that in the last ten years, there’s been a tremendous amount of interest from consumers on animal welfare issues.
“And we know in beef cattle production, our profitability depends on the health of beef cattle. And so if we don’t take care of them, whether it be nutrition wise, or we mishandle them, they’re not going to produce for us, and they’re not going to be profitable for us. And so we talk about low stress handling and things to make sure that we’re not affecting the bottom line and also really it’s the right thing to do.”