Producers Weigh In on the Checkoff-funded Beef Quality Assurance Program

by Rick Husted, MBA, Vice President-Strategic Planning and Market Research, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff

Summary

The checkoff-funded 2013 Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) study focused on understanding perceptions of the program among the nation’s cow/calf producers.  Contacted by phone, these producers provided helpful insight that will further the effectiveness of the checkoff’s BQA efforts. Key findings indicate there is more work to be done to inform producers about the program and its benefits. That said, those who are engaged in BQA find it extremely beneficial to their operation and believe the associated training is of great value.  This is especially true among somewhat younger cow/calf operators, those with larger operations and those more likely to belong to local, state or national cattlemen’s organizations.

Background

Beef Quality Assurance is a check-off funded, nationally coordinated, state implemented program that provides systematic information to U.S. beef producers and beef consumers of how common sense animal husbandry techniques can be coupled with accepted scientific knowledge to raise cattle under optimum management and environmental conditions.  Beef Quality Assurance guidelines are designed to make certain all beef consumers can take pride in what they purchase – and can trust and have confidence in the entire beef industry. 

Because of the value the BQA program brings to the beef industry, it is important to maximize the number of producers who follow its principles and guidelines.  Because program certification is voluntary, it is difficult to know at any given point how many producers have taken this step.  The purpose of this research was to assess the status of the checkoff’s BQA program and identify opportunities for improvement/increased certification, especially among the cow/calf sector.

Research Approach

To most effectively capture this feedback a series of interviews with cow/calf producers was conducted to help establish key criteria to include in a broader study.  The broader effort involved telephone interviews with about 600 cow/calf operators and was designed to represent the national population of this producer segment. 

Discussion

Awareness of and familiarity with BQA program

  • Overall BQA awareness is moderate, at 41 percent among cow calf producers.
  • When it comes to actually being familiar with the program, about one in four say they are somewhat or very familiar with what the program does.

Attitudes toward BQA guidelines and programs are positive and widespread

  • About nine in ten cow calf producers say that following BQA-type guidelines is important.  Over two-thirds think it is very important.
  • Key reasons for following common beef quality assurance guidelines include things like producing better beef quality (30 percent) and enhancing consumer confidence in beef (18 percent).
  • Most (87 percent) of those familiar with BQA also believe it adds value to their operation.
  • As far as motivation for becoming BQA certified, reasons included being able to see a return on investment, enhancing the image of beef among consumers and the notion of receiving a premium for BQA-certified cattle.

Perceptions of BQA training are extremely positive, albeit somewhat limited

  • About 11 percent of all cow/calf producers report having taken BQA training with almost all of these going on to become certified.
  • In addition, nearly everyone (97 percent) who has taken BQA training found it to be of value.  
  • The most popular way of taking BQA training has been online (45 percent), followed by extension agencies (20 percent) or state cattlemen’s events (18%).
  • Producers who took the training generally mention many things about it that were important.  The most important aspect mentioned was receiving information or procedures about vaccinations (26 percent).
  • The producers who did not take the BQA training cited being too busy (32 percent) or believing the training had never been offered in their area (15 percent).

Methods to inform producers about BQA programs are straightforward 

  • Producers who are familiar with BQA programs would like to remain informed through printed materials (52 percent), extension services (37 percent), agricultural TV programs (35 percent), or cattle associations/organization meetings (29 percent).

Overall Themes

In addition to the findings outlined above, several themes emerged that provide additional insight into the data.  Although somewhat directional in some cases due to smaller sample sizes, those more engaged with BQA tend to be younger (under 44), have larger cow/calf herds and are more likely to belong to some national, state or local cattlemen’s organization.

Conclusions

  • More work is needed to inform producers about BQA programs.  Although name awareness is moderately high, many producers are not familiar with the program specifics.
  • Perceptions toward BQA guidelines are largely positive, regardless of familiarity.
  • Among those familiar with or who have taken BQA training, no real negative content obstacles emerged; however, a general lack of program specifics could contribute to this.
  • Messaging strategies for increasing BQA participation should, as possible, focus on the future ROI it may provide, the enhanced image of beef among consumers, increased consumer confidence, or that it can lead to a premium paid for BQA-certified cattle.
  • Primary communication vehicles for keeping producers informed should include printed materials, extension services, cattle associations/organization meetings, or agricultural TV programs.
  • Delivery vehicles for BQA training should include online training and onsite training at extension agency offices or state cattlemen’s association events.
  • Beef Quality Assurance training should be framed as being worth producers’ time and effort. A key obstacle to more BQA certifications is producers being too busy.  For those who take the training but elect not to become certified, the primary obstacles are a lack of perceived need to do so, or being too busy.
  • Initial marketing efforts should be targeted to producers with 100+ head, those who belong to state or local cattlemen’s associations, NCBA members, breed associations, or producers under 55; however, there may be value in further exploration of other groups.

Additional Resources

Tags: Beef Issues Quarterly, Research Findings, Summer 2014

June 17, 2014