National Beef Quality Audit

National Beef Quality Audit

Rick Worthington
Rick Worthington
Stocking the nation's grocery shelves with high-quality milk, cheese and other dairy products is a top priority for both dairy farmers and Registered Holstein breeders.

But did you know, more than 20 percent of the dairy industry's total revenue is now associated with the sale of beef? Here's the latest from the National Beef Quality Audit.

First, some background: Over the past 25 years, the checkoff-funded NBQA has delivered a set of benchmarks and measurements for cattle producers and others to help determine quality conformance of the U.S. beef supply. In the beginning, researchers focused on physical attributes, such as marbling, external fat, carcass weight and blemishes.

That's Keith Belk of Colorado State University, a key research contributor to the influential survey of the nation's beef supply, who says the increased number of dairy cattle has led to higher quality levels.

As we saw more and more success in dealing with these issues through the years, the research was expanded. Now, attributes like food safety, sustainability, animal well-being and the growing disconnect between producers and consumers — all issues that have increased impact on how animals are raised and the beef cattle industry is managed — are included.

The 2016 NBQA provided this information through three major elements: face-to-face interviews; extensive in-plant research, including transportation, mobility, harvest floor and cooler assessments; and a strategy session attended by individuals representing every sector of the beef industry to assess the results and discuss implications.

In the in-plant research, of interest to producers may be the results on carcass bruising. The incidence of bruising was higher in the 2016 study than in the previous 2011 audit, but the severity of bruising was less. We also found that fewer cattle had brands and more cattle were free of horns.

The mobility of cattle getting to the packing plant was excellent: 97% of cattle received a mobility score of 1, with the animal walking easily and normally, with no apparent lameness.

For more results from the 2016 National Beef Quality Audit, visit, where you can access complete findings from the industry study.

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