Much of the way livestock and poultry are handled is traditionally passed down from generation to generation on family operations, or comes from personal experience and training. Yet, as industry standards change, producers also want to change to make sure they are doing the best to take care of their animals. Practices of production such as de-horning, castration, use of vaccines and antibiotics, etc., all have their purpose in the industry, but the way they are handled can be skewed by the public eye.
The cattle industry formalized its first quality program in the late 1970s when it was called the “Beef Safety Assurance” program, designed to help cattle farmers and ranchers ensure their production practices were safe and met consumer expectations. The BQA program, the first of its kind in the world, soon followed and was officially established in 1987.
BQA raises consumer confidence through offering proper management techniques and a commitment to quality within every segment of the beef industry. Cattlemen and women have embraced BQA because it is the right thing to do. It is an educating program that has evolved to include best practices around good record keeping and protecting herd health. The pork industry offers similar programs, including Pork Quality Assurance Plus (PQA Plus) and Transport Quality Assurance (TQA), to support animal well-being and maintain a safe, high-quality supply of pork. Their “We Care” initiative ties everything together to help the public view the pork industry as a self-regulated business that earns the trust of others.
The poultry and dairy industries provide similar quality assurance programs, as well.
Social media has drastically changed how agriculture is viewed and how people talk about their food. While it has brought negative views and questions to livestock production, the two-way street allows livestock producers to have a voice as well as a listening audience that is focused on where they intersect and can relate with one another. And that intersection is something we all enjoy: food.
When consumers are concerned about how their food is raised, it gives producers an opportunity to talk about their animal welfare and is a good wake-up call to all livestock producers that others are watching. This is especially true at livestock shows. There is a critical eye watching every move and producers need to be ready to share their story with emphasis on why and how.
Articulate Your Story
It’s an especially good reminder to be proactive. Help consumers connect the dots by reaching out to them and asking if they have any questions.