National Beef Quality Audit – Phase 1 Identifies Quality Attributes of Beef

US - The 2011 National Beef Quality Audit (NBQA) results have been tallied and recently released providing the beef industry sectors with the latest data on this benchmark study which is conducted every five years.
calendar icon 25 September 2012
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Dr Keith Belk, professor of animal science with Colorado State University was the lead researcher on Phase 1 of the three phase audit.

Phase 1 consisted of face-to-face interviews of companies that participate in all sectors of the beef industry marketing chain, explains Belk and the focus of this phase is to identify things that the production sector of the industry is doing well or that need to be improved upon. Companies interviewed included feeders, packing companies, food service, distribution or processing entities, retailers and also those who are in an affiliated role such as the government sector or allied industry.

New experimental concepts were added to Phase 1 for the first time due to access to new technology. Beef quality attributes were divided into seven categories: 1) food safety; 2) eating satisfactions; 3) how and where cattle were raised; 4) lean, fat and bone; 5) weight and size; 6) genetics; and 7) visual characteristics and representatives from each beef production and marketing sector were interviewed to provide input on these seven quality attributes.

One of the new elements studied in Phase 1 revealed that all segments of the industry would like to have more information attached to the cattle they are purchasing or the product they are purchasing, Dr Belk comments. For example, this information can impact the feedlot industry in ways such as knowing the source of the cattle and health management systems and retailers who are concerned with the way cattle were raised. Nevertheless, Dr Belk says the results showed that at all points of the industry they want more information about the product they are buying and this clearly came out in the data analyzed in Phase 1.

Key conclusions from Phase 1 included:

  • Terminology about quality among segments of the industry is not standardized and as a result makes communication with consumers about quality parameters more difficult to explain and for the consumer to interpret.
  • Consumers are seeking more information about how the beef they are purchasing in retail or foodservice outlets was raised and where it come from.
  • Food safety is the single most important quality category to packers, food service and retailers
  • Continuous improvement in food safety and eating satisfaction should be an industry-wide focus
  • Retailers, foodservice and packers are under additional customer/societal pressures to ensure animals were raised under humane conditions
  • The industry needs to do a better job telling its story.

Phase 1 research found that the face-to-face interviews clearly revealed the industry needs to work on being transparent about the product produced or telling the story of beef production to the general public. This was identified as one of the weaknesses for the industry and thus going forward the research concluded this is an element that the industry must implement.

The NBQA was funded by the Beef Checkoff and conducted by a team of researchers representing several land grant universities and was coordinated by the National Beef Quality Audit.

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