The Beef Quality Assurance program is a producer-driven certification program in which cattle producers work toward a common goal to assure consumers that cattle from each segment of the industry - cow/calf, stocker, feedlot - are healthy, wholesome, quality products. The cattle are managed in a way that is appropriate to each individual operation, so that beef quality and safety are considered in all production practices.
Many view BQA as a "consumer confidence" program, in which consumers can feel assured that the beef they purchase has been produced using the best production practice standards in the cattle industry. The cow/calf or stocker segments of the industry may often seem distant from the retail meat counter, but many early management decisions and tasks may influence the quality of that beef product. When a beef producer becomes BQA certified it helps sends a message to consumers that they are willing to do what is necessary in their management of cattle to assure they are producing a quality product.
The BQA program is voluntary. There is no requirement for cow/calf or stocker operations to be BQA certified unless they sell calves into a premium or branded program that may have BQA certification as a requirement (like the Oklahoma Quality Beef Network program). Most packers require fed cattle they purchase to be sourced from BQA-certified operations, so nearly all feedlots are BQA certified. While certification is not a requirement for cow/calf and stocker producers, it may, however, have some economic value to cattle buyers to know that the calves have been produced following BQA management principles.
The BQA program focuses on the following management areas: care and management practices, feedstuffs, feed additives and medications, processing, treatment, record-keeping, and injectable animal health products.
You can complete the certification entirely online or in person. The online certification process consists of viewing several modules, followed by short quizzes. The in-person certification consists of a presentation and review of the BQA program followed by a short quiz. Due to COVID-19, the most available option currently is the online method. If you are interested in an in-person certification program, contact the OSU Extension office to be notified when an in-person certification option is available in the area.
BQA certification is valid for three years from the date of completion. To maintain status, producers must recertify. The recertification process is essentially the same as the initial certification. It can be accomplished through the online process or an in-person program.
Good production practices and good animal husbandry make sense for all segments of the industry: the cow/calf producer that sells at weaning, the stocker operator, and the feedlot. Incorporation and utilization of management practices that will result in better beef eating experiences for consumers should mean a higher level of consumer confidence and satisfaction, leading to a higher beef demand.
For additional information regarding the Beef Quality Assurance certification program, give us a call at the Cherokee County OSU Extension office at 918-456-6163.
Garrett Ford is an agriculture educator for the Cherokee County OSU Extension office.