The National Beef Quality Audit-2016 (NBQA-2016) was conducted to assess current transportation, mobility, and quality characteristics of U.S. fed steers and heifers. Data were collected at 17 beef processing facilities between March and November 2016. About 8,000 live cattle were evaluated for transportation and mobility, and about 25,000 carcasses were evaluated on the slaughter floor. Cattle were in transit to the slaughter facility for a mean duration of 2.7 h from a mean distance of 218.5 km using trailers with dimensions ranging from 17.84 m2 to 59.09 m2. Area allotted per animal averaged 1.13 m2 and ranged from 0.85 m2 to 2.28 m2. A total of 96.8% of cattle received a mobility score of 1 (walks easily, no apparent lameness). Identification types (35.1% had multiple) were lot visual tags (61.5%), individual tags (55.0%), electronic tags (16.9%), metal-clip tags (9.2%), bar-coded tags (0.05%), wattles (0.01%), and other (2.6%). Cattle were black-hided (57.8%), Holstein (20.4%), red-hided (10.5%), yellow-hided (4.8%), gray-hided (2.9%), brown-hided (1.3%), and white-hided (1.1%). Unbranded hides were observed on 74.3% of cattle; 18.6% had brands located on the butt, 6.3% on the side, and 1.3% on the shoulder (values exceed 100% due to multiple brands). For hide-on carcasses, 37.7% displayed no mud or manure; specific locations for mud or manure were legs (40.8%), belly (33.0%), tail region (15.5%), side (6.8%), and top-line (3.9%). Cattle without horns represented 83.3% of the sample, and cattle that did have horns measured: < 2.54 cm (5.5%), 2.54 to 12.7 cm (8.3%), and > 12.7 cm (2.9%). Carcasses without bruises represented 61.1% of those sampled, whereas 28.2% had 1, 8.2% had 2, 2.1% had 3, and 0.3% had 4 bruises. Of those carcasses with a bruise, the bruise was located on the loin (29.7%), round (27.8%), chuck (16.4%), rib (14.4%), and brisket/plate/flank (11.6%). Frequencies of offal condemnations were livers (30.8%), lungs (18.2%), viscera (16.3%), hearts (11.1%), heads (2.7%), and tongues (2.0%). Compared to NBQA-2011, fewer cattle were identified for traceability, fewer were black-hided, a greater number were Holstein cattle, more with no brand and no horns, fewer without bruises, more liver, lung, and viscera condemnations, and fewer heads and tongues were condemned. The NBQA remains an influential survey for the U.S. beef industry to provide benchmarks and strategic plans for continued improvement of beef quality and consistency.
- Beef quality