New Year, New Expectations for Beef

– Christine Gelley, Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator, OSU Extension Noble County

If you have consistently, or even occasionally, read my column in 2018, you should be aware that there are changes in store for the beef industry as we ring in 2019.

Some segments of the beef supply chain will expect cattle producers to be certified in Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) at the turn of the year. Ohio State Extension has been working with the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association and the Ohio Beef Council to provide certification programs for interested producers across the state throughout 2018.

Certification programs will continue to be offered in 2019. Upcoming Ohio BQA training opportunities are listed here. Training can also be completed anytime online at

The BQA program has been developed from research backed best management practices, with one of the goals being developing consumer trust with transparency. As of this moment, BQA is not a legal requirement for sale of cattle, but will be a moral requirement for some of the nation’s cattle buyers.

Inevitably, we will see the BQA program continue to change in response to market demands, producer needs, and consumer desires. If there is anything that is consistent in life, it is that things will change over time.

The New Year is an opportunity for many to make a clear change in expectations for business practices.

For example, producers who have their cull cows processed locally may see a change in fee structure from the meat processor. Notice will be given to 2019 customers about new policies and fees from the processor when they call to schedule an appointment.

A beef producer I interact with regularly brought the change in fee structure to my attention last week. After a conversation with the processor, I felt that the fee was justified logically and legally. The fee was concerning processing cattle over 30 months of age. There would be an additional charge for these cattle due to the legal disposal of Specified Risk Materials (SRMs).

Specified Risk Materials are cattle tissues that may be a source of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as mad cow disease. The BSE repository tissue locations vary depending on the age of cattle at slaughter.

Cattle of all ages must have the tonsils and first 80 inches of the small intestine (distal ileum) removed and disposed of as specified by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). For cattle over 30 months of age, SRMs include those tissues, as well as, the skull, eyes, spinal cord, trigeminal ganglia, dorsal root ganglia, and vertebral column.

The processor is responsible for developing, implementing, and maintaining written procedures for the segregation, removal, and disposal of SRMs for FDA compliance. This includes paperwork that documents the disposal of SRMs for each applicable animal they process and approved disposal methods. Both of which cost the processor additional time and money. Hence, the processing fee change in 2019.

The cost of disposal remains consistent week to week for the processor, while the volume of tissue to dispose varies greatly. To compensate, the cattle producer will be sharing the cost of disposal in the new fee structure.

Assuring that SRMs are disposed of appropriately is crucial for human and animal health. The costs associated with disposal are another one of the prices we pay for a safe food supply.

To read more about SRMs and the FDA’s requirements concerning processing and disposal, consult the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service’s resources online at

These are just a couple of changes that may affect our local beef producers in 2019.

Whatever changes are awaiting for you in the new year, I hope that you will willingly accept the ones that improve your healthy, happiness, and financial well-being. Sometimes they come as blessings in disguise.

Happy New Year Readers!