BQA Award-winning Producers Help Tackle Consumer Trust Objectives
Among its six committees, the Beef Checkoff’s “Consumer Trust Committee” supports programs that grow consumer trust in beef and beef production through greater adoption and understanding of industry best practices. The Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program is the industry’s library of information on best practices and serves as a hub for disseminating this information to cattle producers. Traditionally, BQA was one of the only producer-facing Checkoff funded programs, but its role has been expanding to bring the benefits of BQA, and particularly its impact on animal welfare, front and center for the general public.
The importance of engaging with audiences outside of agriculture doesn’t stop with the Beef Checkoff’s priorities. The 2021-2025 Beef Industry Long Range Plan (BILRP) also called upon the BQA program to enhance its visibility to the public. Released during the summer of 2021, the long-range plan’s strategic initiative to grow consumer trust in beef production includes the expectation that by 2025, the beef industry makes significant progress toward educating consumers, influencers, and the general public about BQA and its positive impact on animal care and well-being.
Julia Herman, Beef Cattle Specialist Veterinarian at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), says that the BQA program is designed to do just that.
“The BQA program bridges the gap between cattle producers raising and caring for their animals, and the consumers who are asking those animal care questions,” she said.
Recent national Checkoff campaigns have made it clear that progress is being made toward achieving these goals. BQA-focused advertisements have touted that more than 85 percent of the U.S. beef supply is raised under BQA management practices. Other campaigns, such as the “Chef’s Roll” promotion, share in-kitchen and on-ranch experiences between cattle producers and elite chefs.
But beyond these highly visible national campaigns, award-winning U.S. beef producers have played a significant role building public sentiment toward the beef industry by helping broadcast the realities of BQA implementation on their operations. Since 2009, the National BQA program has recognized U.S. ranches, feedlots, marketers, educators, and dairies for their BQA achievements, and those producers have subsequently become spokespeople and ambassadors for industry best practices.
“The National BQA Awards program was created to highlight producers from all sectors of the cattle industry and their dedicated work to improving care for their cattle, operation, and communities,” Herman said. “These producers understand that quality care leads to long term benefits, from animal health to production and resource management to providing a quality product to the consumer.”
By nominating elite BQA advocates, state BQA programs across the country have been major players in strengthening national BQA efforts to meet both Checkoff and BILRP goals. By identifying real-life cattle producers who excel in implementing best practices, and who are also talented in articulating their experiences, the BQA program has helped give a human face to the beef industry and connect the public to those who feed them.
Jesse Fulton, State Program Coordinator and Director of Nebraska BQA, nominated two candidates who were both selected for National BQA Awards this year, earning recognition at the 2022 Cattle Industry Annual Convention and NCBA Trade show in Houston, Texas in February. (2022 National BQA Marketer of the Year & 2022 National BQA Educator of the Year.) He says he will continue to bring forward Nebraska’s best in order recognize outstanding producers in his state, while continuing to assist in building the reputation of the BQA program and share best practices with the general public.
“I think the National BQA awards program provides me a great opportunity to recognize producers in my state who do their part as it relates to BQA,” said Fulton. “But the program does more than recognizing the producer. It also provides us the opportunity to show consumers all the hard work our cattle producers are doing to ensure they are providing safe, wholesome, healthy beef and beef products.”
In addition to being honored on a national platform before their industry peers, National BQA Award winners are chosen to star in educational videos that work to personify the cattle industry and share unique, positive cattle production stories with the public. Although the 2022 National BQA Award winners were only recently announced, promotional videos of previous National BQA Award winners have circulated nation-wide. As a testament to their value, National BQA award winner YouTube videos have generated hundreds of thousands of online impressions.
Herman says that being featured in beef industry marketing pieces, like BQA Award Winner YouTube Videos, is step one. But National BQA Award winners continue to contribute to the betterment of the beef industry long after their videos are launched.
“Once recognized as a national winner, these agricultural leaders contribute more by joining work groups with BQA and outside organizations that continue to push our industry forward. Our National BQA Award winners are visible examples to those outside the agriculture industry, and truly demonstrate the challenges that can be overcome to optimize cattle health and well-being while keeping the final product in mind,” she said.
Still, both National and State BQA programs must continue discovering new ways to help bolster the industry’s reputation. NCBA’s Issues and Reputation Management team utilizes BQA Award winner segments as promotional tools to proactively build up public sentiment toward cattle production.
Megan Farley, NCBA Associate Director of Communications, Issues and Reputation Management says that BQA is an essential part of their issues management work.
“Although we do not expect most consumers to take a deep dive into the structure of the program, we find that it can be the answer to many questions, including antibiotic use, hormone use, production practices, low stress handling, etc.,” Farley said. “It is a useful tool to explain that farmers and ranchers care about the well-being of their cattle, and there is a program set up to encourage continuous improvement across the industry.”
Still, the question begs - How can individual states help keep up the momentum? Building new and unique relationships to target the ever-changing sentiments of the general public will be vital. Without losing focus on BQA’s foundation in producer education, the program must demonstrate its ability to become more public facing than ever before.
Herman and Fulton agree that a robust BQA Awards program brings forth the industry’s best to share the story of beef production with the consumer. BQA is no longer just about training producers on where to give injections, its about the bigger picture and encouraging all cattle producers to adopt BQA standards to bring a united message forward beyond the pastures of rural America and into the public eye.
If you know a producer deserving of national BQA recognition, and who would serve as an industry advocate, please contact your BQA State Coordinator or visit www.bqa.org.