The Beef Quality Assurance program has benefits
While not always a necessity in the agriculture industry, participation in a quality assurance program can help producers stand out and provide additional resources for management and marketing.
Beef Quality Assurance, funded through the Beef Checkoff, is one of the more well-known programs for agricultural producers.
BQA is designed to help producers learn about and implement the best possible health and management practices and provide credentials that appeal to the public.
According to the BQA website, BQA does more than just help beef producers capture more value from their market cattle. BQA also reflects a positive public image and instills consumer confidence in the beef industry. When producers implement the best management practices of a BQA program, they assure their market steers, heifers, cows and bulls are the best they can be. Because of increased public attention on animal welfare, programs such as BQA that address welfare and handleing are importatn. BQA is valuable to all beef and dairy producers because it demonstrates commitment to food safety and quality, safeguards the public image of the dairy industry, upholds consumer confidence in valuable beef products, improves sale value of marketed beef cattle and enhances herd profitability through better management.
Producers can participate in online or in person certification courses.
Dairy producers can participate in a quality assurance program known as Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM).
Through utilization of four program “silos,” including animal care, environmental stewardship, antibiotic stewardship and workforce development. FARM works with dairy farmers, cooperatives, processors and industry partners to show customers and consumers that the dairy industry holds itself to the highest standards.
The Animal Care Program is the core FARM Program in which all producers are required to participate. This silo of the program includes a FARM Animal Care Reference manual with best practices that farmers must follow for every cow and calf on the farm, on-farm assessments by trained evaluators and third-party verification by a qualified third-party entity who evaluates a statistically significant percentage of farms each year to ensure the integrity of the program.
Individual producers who wish to participate in the FARM program can contact the organization to arrange a site visit with an evaluator to begin the application process.
Swine producers also have options for participation in quality assurance programs. The Pork Checkoff offers an education and certification program called Pork Quality Assurance Plus.
This program, developed in 1989, was designed to help pig farmers and their employees use best practices to promote food safety.
The Pork Checkoff says PQA Plus provides a framework for significant, relevant food safety standards and improved animal well-being. Pork producers pride themselves on the commitment to continuous improvement. PQA Plus is regularly revised to increase its effectiveness, incorporate new research information, and ensure the program’s validity.
Maintaining its food safety tradition to ensure U.S. pork products continue to be recognized domestically and internationally as the highest quality and safest available, PQA Plus also provides information to ensure producers can measure, track and continuously improve animal well-being.
To become PQA certified, producers must contact a certified advisor and arrange either a face-to-face training and exam, or request permission to set up an online course and exam.
Participation and certification in quality assurance programs takes an investment of time and financial resources.
The amount of time and the cost varies (BQA certification can be obtained online in four hours or less), and producers will have to weigh the value of the benefits to see if it is a worthwhile endeavor for their operation.
Visiting with program advisors and other certified producers can aid in the decision-making process.