UC partners with industry in Beef Quality Assurance

The Issue

Identification and control of preharvest critical control points for the safety of beef are necessary. In particular, the beef industry wants to eliminate residues and contamination in market beef and dairy beef products; enhance food safety and microorganism biosecurity at the beef production level, including prevention of zoonotic diseases; and improve medical care, including appropriate drug and antibiotic use, and avoid development of antibiotic resistance.

What Has ANR Done?

UC and the California Cattlemen’s Association (CCA), in response to the growing need for a Quality Assurance Program (QAP) for beef producers, began offering educational programs and certification for beef producers in 1990. The program has proven, by attendance and management-practice improvements, that voluntary, industry-led QAPs can be successful.

CCA's Basic Cow-Calf Quality Assurance Program was first offered in English in 1993 and in Spanish in 1994. Most basic sessions are offered by a UCCE livestock advisor at the request of a local cattlemen’s association or producers' group. The original four-hour program consisted of videos and quizzes; most include a chute-side session on animal handling or injection site lesions. Program development was funded by the California Beef Council with check-off dollars.

After nearly 5,000 participants went through the basic program, we developed several new expanded and advanced educational programs: Advanced Animal Health, Advanced Genetics and Value-Based Marketing, and Advanced Residue Avoidance and Reproduction. Subsequently the beef industry has required producers to be recertified every three years. The basic program has been modified into easy-to-update PowerPoint presentations or Web-based content that provide continuous training and official ongoing certification.

Diseases of significant concern to public health - such as BSE, Brucellosis, E. coli O157:H7, Johne's and Tuberculosis - were emphasized to inform producers of the potential risk to human health. Other diseases result in an increased use of over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, extra-label doses of OTC drugs and prescription drugs, resulting in major residue problems that occur in market beef at slaughter. We have emphasized early detection and programs designed to identify and reduce risk. The potential for disease impacts on end product marketing, quality and public perception were discussed.

The Payoff

UC program makes California beef safer

Producers who are certified in beef quality assurance know how to develop their own residue and contamination avoidance programs--making beef safer. Industry statistics show injection site problems have disappeared from feedlot beef cattle. Fewer cases of microbial contamination are occurring due to beef. Perhaps most important for beef producers, knowledge of how to use animal health products properly has improved overall health of the beef herd.


James W. Oltjen, Management Systems Specialist
Department of Animal Science, UC Davis,(530) 752-5650; jwoltjen@ucdavis.edu