Va. cattle industry executive praises check-off system

AFP Correspondent

WYTHEVILLE, Va. (Feb. 3, 2015) — Jason Carter, executive secretary of the Virginia Cattleman’s Association praised the beef check-off program to the state’s foragers in a series of talks in January.
He also talked about developments in the industry and explained some of the legislative stands the VCA is taking this year.
“The beef check-off is one of the most fantastically successful” programs in the industry, Jason said at the Virginia Forage and Grassland Council Winter Conference here Jan. 21.
Carter maintained that for every one dollar spent from check off funds, $13 dollars returns to the industry.
Carter gave his annual report to each of the four Virginia Forage and Grassland Council Winter Conference meetings held across the state explaining that in Virginia most of the check-off money is spent in reaching consumer and retail influencers.
“Science and policy have not always held hands,” Carter said, noting that food safety and where food comes from are topics that the association is addressing.
It is using several avenues. One is social media. Another is educational events for retailers and dietitians.
He reported that last year Virginia Cattleman’s Association worked with Kroger, one of the largest grocery retailers.
They brought people from seven states where Kroger has stores to the chain’s regional headquarters in Salem, Va. to explain the cattle business and answer their questions.
The association took the visitors to Virginia Tech’s Kentland Farm, where they could see cattle in a research setting.
He noted that the consumers do not understand about the use of implants in beef cattle, saying that “‘hormone-free’ is not a good term.”
He went on to explain how those implants are used to replace hormones in steers they would produce naturally if they had not been castrated.
The implants help their growth without allowing them to develop the characteristics of a bull that are undesirable in animals being managed as meat animals.
VCA hopes to have similar events with two other retail chains that serve Virginia consumers, Food Lion and Food City, in coming months.
Carter touched on the growth of the exports of beef that has taken place in the last few months.
He said much of this is demand is built on demand for offal from the cattle.
This constitutes organs and other parts of the animals Americans don’t include in their diet.
He used Egypt as an example of a country that wants this type beef. He said the claws or feet of cattle are popular there.
Another program that has a positive impact on the beef industry in Virginia is the Beef Quality Assurance program.
Even in 2013 with its record high beef cattle prices BQA added $81 per head to cattle prices, he reported.
VCA is also letting its presence be known both in Washington and Richmond as legislative bodies meet.
He said the association is opposed to the effort to pass a constitutional amendment to allowing Virginians the right to acquire, for their own consumption, processed food directly at the farm.
This would allow for the unregulated production and sale of any and all food products at the farm including potentially hazardous and high-risk foods, including unpasteurized milk and uninspected meats.
While the organization is not opposed to niche markets, it is opposed to making the deregulation a constitutional amendment.
This would, in short, open the door to the possibility of legal complications and liability issues.