Beef Quality Assurance & Digital Transformation of Certification Programs

Digital Transformation of Beef Quality Assurance And Certification Programs

Beef Quality Assurance and Certification

When consumers see a ‘verified beef’ label on a beef product, they are willing to pay premium price for it. It’s a marketing claim that helps producers, packers, and retailers give consumers the impression that the beef they are buying lived a happy life. In order to make a marketing claim that consumers trust, producers have to enroll themselves in beef quality assurance programs. So what is beef quality assurance and how do these programs help consumers feel confident about the quality and safety of food?

What is Beef Quality Assurance?

Over the years, beef quality assurance has evolved to include best practices around:

1)  Cattle Care

2) Food Safety, and

3) Sustainability

The whole purpose of beef quality assurance is to address consumers’ concerns regarding process control, food safety, animal welfare considerations, sustainability, and responsible antibiotic use.

Beef Quality Assurance Certification Programs

Quality Assurance programs enable beef producers to prove to consumers and retailers that their operation adheres to the highest standards for animal care, food safety, and sustainability. Hence, these producers join certified quality assurance programs to be able to use marketing claims associated with them and increase their bottom-line.

Here are Some Examples that Explain Why These Programs are Important:

1) Certified ranchers and feedlots can get more value for every animal sold to their customers. In 2006, the Copper-T ranch joined the Verified Beef Production program to be able to prove to buyers that their cattle were being raised in as sustainable a way as possible.

2) Certified food processors can sell processed food to retailers at a higher value. Tyson Foods signed up with Progressive Beef in 2019  to source products from ProgressiveBeef certified feedyards.

3) A retailer can sell certified products to consumers at premium prices. In 2018, McDonalds announced that it will source beef from Canadian farms and ranches that have been certified “sustainable”. This is because the beef industry has been facing increasing pressure from consumers over issues like environmental protection and animal welfare.

Beef retailers aim to assure the beef they sell to customers comes from beef cattle operations doing the ‘right things’.

Most of the time production practices must be verified or audited by a trustworthy quality assurance program. Consumers place faith in this and retailers can use it. These programs conduct bi-yearly audits at registered feedlots to ensure that animals receive good care. After the audit, a feedyard receives a score along with corrective actions needed to get program certification. Only a certified producer can make the claim associated with the program. Certification is renewed annually.

Beef Quality Assurance Certification Process

Quality assurance programs validate responsible and sustainable production practices. Implementation of these program is a step by step process listed below to set-up, train, and verify compliance and ultimately acquiring certification.

Beef Quality Assurance & Certification

Participating ranches or feedlots have to follow a set of standard procedures related to their program. The following areas are assessed during internal and USDA approved audits:

– Cattle handling and daily care

– Cattle home pen living conditions

– Cattle water tank cleanliness

– Cattle feed nutrition, handling and delivery which follows developed HACCP principles for safety

– Antibiotic use on the farm (traceability as well as animal withdrawal records)

– Employee safety guidelines

– Sustainability practices and measurement

– Training and knowledge

– Record verification

Data Collection, Reporting, and Other Challenges

Most feedlots and ranchers rely on paper-based processes for record keeping and operations management. This is the reason many beef quality assurance certification programs rely on paper based processes where quality assurance program managers verify paper based documents to ensure compliance with program requirements. However, this makes it very difficult to track various activities, SOPs, and results related to the program.

Moreover, in many cases, farmers start filling out requirement documents and forms a day or two before the internal and 3rd party audit. This practice raises concerns about the authenticity of data gathered during the audits.

Furthermore, it’s very challenging for program managers to communicate corrective actions and then track them. Each ranch or feedlot is visited only once or twice in a period of six months which is why manual processes for communication and tracking is not easy.

Using Technology to Digitize Beef Quality Assurance Certification Programs

The beef industry has started to realize the importance of beef quality assurance solution in bringing efficiency. A solution that can digitize the entire workflow can enable quality assurance program managers to keep track of every activity. Such a solution can also enable two-way communication between the farms and certification program so that corrective actions can be done immediately.

Here is what needs to be done in order to transform a Beef Quality Assurance Certification Program:

Web App for Beef Quality Assurance Program Managers:

– Add, view, and manage multiple farms.

– Add, edit, and update SOPs

– Ability to add, view, and manage users.

– Create customized programs based on a farm’s operations.

– Add, edit, and assign farm audits.

– View a farm’s performance statistics in real time.

Mobile App for Internal and 3rd Party Auditors:

– View a list of daily audit related tasks.

– View a list of assigned farms.

– View farm performance in real-time.

– View the audit checklist and submit observations against each item.

– Recommend corrective action based on observations.

Web App for Ranch and Feedlot Managers:

– Manage and view farm performance levels in real time.

– Add workers in the system and assign relevant tasks.

– See a list of completed and pending tasks.

– View quality and compliance SOPs

– View self-assessment checklist

– View the corrective actions recommended by internal and 3rd party auditors.

Mobile App for Ranch and Feedlot Workers:

– View a list of tasks assigned for a day.

– Take observations and submit data directly from the field.

– Capture photo or video to report an issue.

– Submit data offline and sync it when internet connectivity is available

– View a list of assigned farms.

– View the corrective actions recommended by internal and 3rd party auditors.

Making Beef Quality Assurance Audits Simpler, Quicker, and More Effective

Eliminating paper based tasks from the farm certification process, can significantly improve efficiency levels. Since data is collected using a cattle management app, beef quality assurance program managers can monitor compliance levels and day-to-day farm conditions and activities in real-time.

Auditors don’t have to go through tons of paper-based data in order to track and measure program compliance. Moreover, they can recommend corrective actions without being on the farm. Since farms can take immediate actions, it can greatly enhance program efficiency.

Program managers can create and download compliance reports at a click of a button. Since data is collected by farm workers on their mobile devices, reports of real-time data can be generated and used to make informed decisions.

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