Journal of the NACAA
Volume 5, Issue 2 - December, 2012
Beef Camp Educates Youth Beef Producers About End Product Quality in Idaho
- Baker, S.D., Extension Educator, University of Idaho Extension, Custer County
The last four national Beef Quality Audits identified many quality challenges in the beef industry including excess external fat, inadequate tenderness, insufficient marbling, and lack of uniformity. A major industry goal was to educate beef producers to select management practices that increase value and quality of beef. This includes youth producers who raise beef animals in 4-H and FFA. It is important for youth to recognize the impact they have on consumer demand, and ultimately the industry with their management decisions. In response, a proposal was submitted to the Idaho Beef Council to fund BEEF Camp, a youth “end-product quality” educational event. The curriculum for BEEF Camp includes presentations, hands-on activities, and live animal demonstrations. Topics include Measuring Carcass Quality, Meat Quality Attributes, How Feeds Affect End-Product Quality, Selecting Market Steers, and Beef Quality Assurance. Hands-on activities include conducting a Taste Panel and a Beef Cut Identification contest. To date, three BEEF Camps have been conducted with over 100 youth reached thus far. Scores from pre– to post-tests increased from 42.5% to 90.7%, respectively. Participants ranked the overall experience of the program and the educational materials provided as 1.4 on a scale of 1-5 (1=outstanding, 2=good, 3=average, 4=poor, 5=unacceptable). All BEEF Camp attendees also indicated they learned something new regarding the relationship of livestock management and beef quality. Due to the success of BEEF Camp, and the need for more end- product quality youth education, authors are currently working on publishing the BEEF Camp curriculum for use in other states.
Consumers expect consistent, high-quality beef with every purchase. Therefore, it is essential that Idaho beef producers understand how livestock management practices affect beef quality. This includes youth producers who are raising beef animals as members in 4-H and FFA. Some of the key themes found in previous National Beef Quality Audits have included the need for more producer education, excessive size and fat and insufficient marbling in beef carcasses, and the need for balance between production goals and end-product goals. Addressing these points in youth education aids in supporting a solid foundation as they become involved in the beef industry in the future. It is important for youth to recognize the impact they have on consumer demand, and ultimately the industry. Every management decision, from selecting and feeding cattle to implementing new technologies, affects not only profitability, but also beef quality. Youth need to be exposed to available resources and tools and understand how to incorporate them into an operation in a way that provides maximum benefit.
In response, a proposal was submitted to the Idaho Beef Council (IBC) to fund BEEF Camp, a youth “end-product quality” educational event. The curriculum for BEEF Camp includes presentations, hands-on activities, and live animal demonstrations focused on end product quality, all which stress the importance of raising a high quality beef product.
BEEF Camp is intended to be a one day event and normally lasts 4-6 hours. Presentation topics include 5 key topics: Measuring Carcass Quality, Meat Quality Attributes, How Feeds Affect End-Product Quality, Selecting Market Steers, and Beef Quality Assurance (BQA).
Measuring Carcass Quality: Presentations focus on how quality and yield grades of beef carcasses are determined. Youth then practice measuring ribeye area, back-fat thickness, marbling scores, and ultimately determining final quality & yield grades on steaks.
- Anticipated Time Frame: Presentation: 30 minutes; Hands-on activity: 30 minutes
Meat Quality Attributes: Presentations focus on factors that affect end product quality and what factors affect consumer satisfaction. Youth learn how the appearance, color, and texture of steaks can affect consumer’s purchasing decisions at retail, as well as how muscle fibers and their anatomy, connective tissue, aging, amount of calpastatin, location of cut, and method of cooking all affect the tenderness of beef. Flavor and juiciness factors and their relationship to the palatability of beef are also discussed.
- Anticipated Time Frame: Presentation: 45 minutes; Hands-on activity: 30-60 minutes
How Feeds Affect End-Product Quality: Presentations focus on beef nutrition. Youth practice identifying and weighing various feedstuffs, and learn how protein and energy requirements change during cattle’s lifecycles and stages of production.
- Anticipated Time Frame: Presentation: 30 minutes; Hands-on activity: 30 minutes
Selecting Market Steers: Presentations focus on the systems approach to livestock selection and how to select animals that when properly fed and managed, will represent the best in the industry.Youth learn important traits to look for in cattle, including animals with good to excellent muscling, optimum growth and frame, and animals with good structure and balance. They also learn to look for animals with the potential to achieve an acceptable quality grade and animals with the potential for yielding a high percentage of retail cuts. Youth are given the opportunity to view ultrasound demonstrations to demonstrate how to determine back-fat thickness, ribeye area, and percent intramuscular fat on live steers. They then evaluate those live steers and compare the various traits discussed earlier.
- Anticipated Time Frame: Presentation: 15 minutes; Hands-on activity: 45 minutes
Beef Quality Assurance (BQA): Ethics, injection site management, record keeping, care and husbandry, and animal handling are all discussed during the BQA segment. Youth get up close and personal with the life-size BQA Trailer, where they learn that proper management techniques do enhance beef quality and product value.
- Anticipated Time Frame: Presentation: 45 minutes; Hands-on activity: 15 minutes
An important component of BEEF Camp is hands-on learning. One of the most popular segments at BEEF Camp is the Taste Panel, where different cuts and grades of beef are cooked and sampled. The taste panel illustrates how muscle location, cooking methods, aging, marbling, and maturity affect eating experience. The tasting of different steaks helps youth learn the factors that affect the palatability of beef, including how genetics, feeding, and management techniques all influence the eating quality of the steers they are raising. The taste panel is incorporated into the Meat Quality Attributes presentation and normally takes 30-60 minutes to complete. A retail beef identification contest is also offered to teach youth about muscle biology and location on the carcass, as well as give them the skills to recognize various cuts and quality grades and be better informed as consumers. This contest takes approximately 30 minutes to complete, depending on how many cuts are available. Donated prizes are given out to the winners.
These 5 key topics about beef end product quality are taught at each BEEF Camp. However, some county 4-H programs also include additional events following the BEEF camp curriculum to round out the day’s events. For example, a BEEF Camp curriculum is taught from 9:00 am – 1:00 pm, lunch is served by a local 4-H club, then afternoon activities may include a Beef Skillathon, a beef cattle working contest, a fitting and showing class, or a halter breaking workshop to complete the day’s activities.
BEEF Camp is normally conducted by two Extension Educators or Specialists, along with administrative help from 4-H Program Coordinators or Assistants. However, as with all youth development programs, the work and support of volunteer leaders, parents, and members are what make this program successful. Specific duties and responsibilities of each are outlined in the official curriculum being submitted for publication.
Marketing and advertising pieces have been developed and are encouraged to be used by county 4-H programs that are hosting a BEEF Camp. These include, but are not limited to: postcards direct mailed to youth and leaders in surrounding areas of where BEEF Camp is being held, flyers, PSAs for local radio stations, press releases for local newspapers, event listings on websites, blogs, and social media outlets, and email blasts for various list serves.
To date, three BEEF Camps have been conducted with over 100 youth reached thus far. BEEF Camp helped meet the need for more producer education, as well as make youth, parents, and leaders more aware of how management practices affect beef quality for consumers. Furthermore, the connection was made between the beef chain and the consumers. Pre- and post-tests were given to each participant who attended BEEF Camp to measure an increase in knowledge of beef quality issues. Scores from the pre– to post-tests increased from 42.5% to 90.7%, respectively (Figure 1).
This was a 113.2% improvement in knowledge. In addition, an evaluation was conducted to gain participant input for future BEEF Camps and to determine the value of the program. Participants ranked the overall experience of the program and the educational materials provided as 1.4 on a scale of 1-5 (1=outstanding, 2=good, 3=average, 4=poor, 5=unacceptable). All BEEF Camp attendees also indicated they learned something new regarding the relationship of livestock management and beef quality. BEEF Camp was instrumental in increasing the understanding of livestock management and beef quality for youth, parents, and leaders. The increase in knowledge validates the need for this type of program.
Authors are currently working on completing an official published curriculum that will be available for sale in the future. This will include Power Point slide sets, detailed information on how to conduct hands-on activities (feed identification, retail cut identification, taste panel, etc), activity sheets for each section, and teacher instructions. If funding is available, we hope to include “kits” to go along with each curriculum set, which would include portable grills, marbling cards, ribeye grids, fat probes, and other items that are used in the hands-on activities included in the curriculum. If funding is not available, a list of items needed to complete the hands-on activities will be included in the curriculum.
Due to the success of the previous three BEEF Camps, and the need for more beef end- product quality education for youth, we hope the BEEF Camp curriculum will be published and available for use by other states. Utilizing this curriculum will help address the relationships between livestock management and end-product quality identified in previous Beef Quality Audits and will continue to educate youth beef producers across the U.S.