Wednesday, April 6, 2016

American Quality Beef vs Foreign Beef



USDA Quality Grading

Let's jump right into this subject by talking a little about what we Americans consider quality beef and how we use our beef quality grading system. 

We here in the United States use beef quality grading which is a composite evaluation of factors that affect palatability of meat tenderness, juiciness, and flavor. These factors include carcass maturity, firmness, texture, and color of lean, and the amount and distribution of marbling within the lean.

Beef carcass quality grading is based on degree of marbling and degree of maturity. USDA beef quality grades are Prime, Choice, Select, Standard, Commercial, Utility, Cutter and Canner.


USDA Beef Quality (BQA)

A large part of the beef industry’s job involves making sure that beef is safe and wholesome for consumers. As with any industry concerned with putting out the best product possible, the beef industry has it's own Beef Quality Assurance program.

USDA beef quality grades (BQA) is a national program designed to raise consumer confidence through offering proper management techniques and a commitment to quality within every aspect of the beef industry. And yes, the BQA program does more than just help beef producers capture more value from their market cattle.

BQA also reflects a positive public image and instills consumer confidence in the beef industry. When producers implement the best management practices of a BQA program, they assure their market steers, heifers, cows, and bulls are the best they can be. 

Because the stakes are even higher today with increased public attention on animal welfare, BQA is valuable to all beef and dairy producers because it:
  • Demonstrates commitment to food safety and quality.
  • Safeguards the public image of the dairy industry.
  • Upholds consumer confidence in valuable beef products.
  • Protects the beef industry from additional and burdensome government regulation.
  • Improves sale value of marketed beef cattle.
  • Enhances herd profitability through better management.
Beef Checkoff supported BQA programs bring it all together. While the BQA Manual provides a framework for program consistency, the states still determine the best programs for their producers.

BQA began as an effort to ensure that violative chemical residues were not present in marketed beef. Fact is the BQA was originally called "Beef Safety Assurance." That program's early emphasis was on assuring the real and perceived safety of beef. 

Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) has become much more than a safety assurance program. Today, BQA programming is expanding with information to help producers implement best management practices that improve both quality grades and yield grades of beef carcasses.

Previous National Beef Quality Audits have summarized that the number one leverage point to improve competitiveness and regain market share was to improve beef quality, uniformity and consistency. Also, the sectors that sell beef products indicated that improvements were needed in tenderness, palatability, and a reduction in excess trimmable fat.

Many consumers are familiar with quality grades and may make purchasing decisions based on quality grades at retail. But, within the consumer atmosphere the term “quality” can be confusing. Consumers and even producers often find it difficult to distinguish between the various and different ways to define “quality” with regard to beef.

Quality beef consistently satisfies customer expectations for eating and preparation characteristics. Expectations may include tenderness, flavor, juiciness, color, leanness, packaging, ease of preparation -- and price.

Studies suggest that beef from carcasses grading at least USDA Select are likely to be acceptable in eating quality for most U.S. consumers. The desire for improved consistency in beef products comes through loudly in every phase of the beef consumer research.

The genetic base for beef is relatively wide due to the wide range of environmental conditions in which cattle are raised in the U.S. Many breeds and genetic lines are used, making it difficult to produce uniform animals important for managing getting consistent products to consumers.

Value for the money is also very important to consumers as they select beef products against other competing meat and vegetable proteins. As for wholesomeness, beef products are harvested and processed under strict government inspection systems that ensure it is safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged.

The nation’s commercial supply of meat, poultry, and egg products is subject to established federal or state inspection requirements.

The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) 

The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is charged with ultimate responsibility for protecting the U.S. meat supply under the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA).

The food safety system employed by FSIS to accomplish its mission has evolved to one in which a science-based framework is used to identify and prevent food safety risks. This framework is known as the Pathogen Reduction/Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (PR/HACCP) system.

The PR/HACCP allows for the use of science and technology to improve food safety in order to prevent the introduction of pathogens in the products we consume. The implementation and verification of PR/HACCP plans have led to a dramatic decline in the incidence of food borne illnesses.

Why Is This Important To American Consumers? 

Well, foreign countries that export meat, poultry, and egg products to the United States are required to establish and maintain inspection systems that are equivalent to those of the United States. The problem is that Americans are finding out is that foreign countries do not establish and/or maintain inspection systems that are equivalent to those that we have here in the United States.

And frankly my friends, foreign countries are so steeped in graft and corruption that we can only guess what is in some of the foods brought in from other nations. And no, while this article in on meats, specially beef, like produce brought in from other countries a lot of pesticides and fertilizers which we ban here and legal to use in other countries.

Because of this situation, Americans have no idea what quality is being shipped to American consumers. But a bigger problem is that we don't know what sort of health risks we are being exposed to by way of food borne illnesses which are still prevalent in foreign countries.

The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) supposedly audits foreign inspection systems and re-inspects meat and poultry at the port-of-entry to ensure that foreign countries have maintained equivalent inspection systems -- but with cutbacks, we don't know if this is taking place.

And yes, while the U.S. Bio-terrorism Act of 2003 regulations include the registration of food facilities exporting to the U.S. and the prior notice of imported food shipments -- it is questionable if this is taking place.

So Why Can't We Find Out Where Our Meats Are Coming From So We Can Choose?

The Federal government states the "Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) program is neither a food safety or traceability program but rather a consumer information program. Food products, both imported and domestic, must meet the food safety standards of USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Food safety and traceability are not the stated intent of the rule, and the COOL program does not replace any other established regulatory programs that related to food safety or traceability. The COOL law requires retailers to notify their customers of the country of origin for all commodities covered under this law."

So, if it does nothing but notify us, the customers, of the country of origin, why stop it?

And yes, that's what took place last June (2015) when Congress voted to repeal the "country of origin labeling laws" meant to let American consumers know where the beef, poultry and pork products is coming from.
Friends, believe it or not, this has everything to do with our Representatives bowing down to the protests to the World Trade Organization (WTO) after getting complaints for Canada and Mexico.

American farmers and consumers have argued that Americans have the right to know where our food came from. And frankly, we should know if we are "buying American" and supporting American producers or supporting some other nation?

I like knowing my dollar is buying American products. I'm tired of sending my dollars overseas while we have Americans struggling to keep their ranches and farms.

So now, after compiling this information from various sources, I couldn't help but wonder why we have politicians fighting the labeling of meats so that we the consumer won't know where it comes from come? Could they really be answering to the WTO and not the American people?

Or, could it be the huge dollars that lobbyists and special interest types wave in their faces? Could it be that those we put in Congress are full of crap and are not looking out for our best interest? Could it be that they have forgotten who they work for and need a wake up call? For me, I think it's a combination of all of the above.

And yes, that's just the way I see it.
Tom Correa

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