By: Dwayne Summach, M.Sc., P.Ag., Regional Livestock Specialist, Kindersley
The goal of every beef producer should be to select, raise, treat and manage their animals to generate an exceptional dining experience for the consumer. While a cow-calf operator may claim they don’t control the quality of beef produced, they just sell calves, it is their decisions regarding bull selection that influence the genetic make-up of the calves they sell. Decisions regarding what feed to provide determine the rate of gain, vaccination protocols to prevent sickness from occurring, and provision of shelter, all have an impact on the final product.
Feedlot operators will tell you that they feed cattle – and while they can target different endpoints, they don’t really know how the animal will actually grade until the hide is off the carcass. Use of genetic testing can help select the most appropriate implant strategies but it will not guarantee the production of AAA, yield grade 1, carcasses.
The beef processor often laments that they only process what is delivered and that they have no control over how the meat is treated. A beautiful rib steak can be turned into an inedible piece of leather if cooked incorrectly.
While every statement above is correct, the reality is that the only way to consistently produce exceptional dining experiences is for every link in the beef production chain to commit to producing a quality product. Proving that you are producing a quality product starts with a commitment to food safety. Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) have been used since the 1960’s as a way to verify safe food production. Since 1993, HACCP principles have been imbedded in the Canadian food safety system. In 1994, the Canadian Cattleman’s Association introduced the Quality Starts Here (QSH) program with a focus on insuring antibiotic withdrawal times were being adhered to. The program expanded to include good production practices and was made available to producers via a large binder. In 2004, the Verified Beef Production (VBP) program was launched as a fully developed HACCP based, on-farm food safety program for beef producers. In June of 2016, Verified Beef Production Plus (VBP+) was launched as a way to link on farm records, auditing of animal care, biosecurity and environmental stewardship practices with the existing VBP to meet the demand for verified sustainable beef at the farm, ranch and feedlot levels.
If you believe you produce a quality product, be prepared to prove it when your customer asks to see the evidence. For more information regarding the Verified Beef Production program, visit the Saskatchewan Verified Beef Production website or contact the Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377.