4-H’s Meat Quality Assurance Program teaches good production strategies
There is always talk in today’s society about the quality and condition of meat as it comes from the farm to the table.
Consumers may question how their food was produced and want to be assured that what they are eating is good for them.
Colorado 4-H has become proactive when it comes to this concept. Members enrolled in 4-H are ultimately the future of the agriculture industry, so there is no better place to start than with them.
All members in Colorado 4-H who exhibits livestock – cattle, dairy, sheep, pigs, goats, rabbits and poultry – are required to attend a Meat Quality Assurance Program twice in their 4-H career. They have to attend their first year exhibiting livestock and then when they become a senior member, which is at 14 years old.
To deliver this information, extension agents in northeastern Colorado have developed a national award-winning, interactive program that teaches 4-H youth about good production practices for food animal production.
These practices include where to properly give injections, which injections are allowed, feeding and normal care for the animal. Using a model cow and pig, members get to have a hands-on demonstration and see what happens if they give an injection in the wrong spot.
How to properly read and follow labels on antibiotics and vaccines is another key element to MQA training. This includes understanding withdrawal dates, which are very important if the animal has received some form of antibiotic or vaccine. The withdrawal date is simply how many days the substance will remain in the animal’s system and at what day it is completely out and the animal safe for harvest.
Feeding and normal care of the animal go hand in hand. This part simply teaches the kids that they need to take care of their animal because the animal cannot feed itself. They need to make sure that the animal is fed properly and that it is housed properly, as well. This includes providing adequate room for the number of animals in a pen and making sure they have the appropriate pen structures.
The 4-H Meat Quality Assurance Program serves as the foundation for how the members are going to conduct themselves as food producers for the rest of their 4-H career and beyond.
As a result, consumers can have confidence in the safety and quality of the food they eat.
Kim Sterkel is the 4-H livestock program coordinator at the Weld County office of Colorado State University Extension.