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How’s the Beef?

Virginia Beef Quality Assurance program inspires confidence

June 2024

More than 85% of U.S. beef comes from BQA-certified farmers.

by Nicole Zema, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation

As beef demand continues to grow, cattle farmers want consumers to expect quality and confidence in product safety, humane practices and sustainability. Farmers can produce the best beef possible by expanding their production knowledge, increasing consumer confidence and strengthening farm profitability through the Virginia Beef Quality Assurance program.

A state division of the nationally coordinated Beef Quality Assurance program, and funded by Beef Checkoffs, Virginia BQA certification is earned at no cost to farmers through live or online training and testing, followed by chute-side instruction. “Getting certified better ensures that beef will always be one of the main protein sources on the table,” says Lisa McCormick, Virginia Beef Center of Excellence coordinator at Virginia Tech, who works with Virginia Cooperative Extension agents statewide to administer the Virginia BQA program.


Educating beef producers, including lifelong cattlemen, on the most trusted techniques in herd and resource management is still full of “a-ha” moments. “I never knew how to do that,” is one remark Phil Blevins hears all the time. The Washington County extension agent has been working with farmers on best practices for 25 years. He coordinates regional training sessions for growers seeking Virginia BQA certifications or recertifications.

Level 1 Certification is earned in a classroom or online, with an overview of the BQA manual and guidelines. It focuses on the best management practices certified producers follow — from feedstuffs and preventive health programs to proper injection site locations and record-keeping Certification is renewed every three years. Level 2 Certification requires a hands-on, chute-side training and cattle handling session, learning proper vaccine administration, antibiotic use and drug safety.

Dr. John Haile, secretary-treasurer of the Eastern Virginia Cattlemen’s Association, operates a cow-calf operation at Elton Farm in Essex County.


Trucking prices are a major disadvantage for small-scale beef producers. Another BQA certification perk is that it allows farmers access to the Virginia Quality Assurance cattle transportation program. Feeder cattle are graded and grouped into tractor-trailer-size lots from several farms to maximize trailer space, which results in improved trucking rates and a lower carbon footprint, while minimizing cattle stress. “Those without enough cattle to market a load lot can sell groups at the same time in load lots of similar size,” says Brandon Reeves of the Virginia Cattlemen’s Association. “And that brings a premium.”


McCormick invites those wanting to learn more about the sector to Virginia Beef Cattle University July 14-16 at the Virginia Tech Inn. The event, sponsored in part by the Virginia Cattle Industry Board, will feature trade show vendors, entertainment and education for youth and adults. Topics include herd health, marketing, nutrition and forages, business management, reproduction, and meat science.

Visit vabeefcattleu.com/registration to learn more.