Program Teaches Kids Importance of Quality

A new program is teaching Colorado’s youth who raise livestock to combat food quality and safety threats through responsible management. Colorado State University Cooperative Extension has developed the program for youth who enroll in poultry, dairy, rabbit, cattle, pig or sheep projects as part of the 4-H youth development program.

The program, called Meat Quality Assurance, teaches future food producers about delivering safe food products to Consumers. MQA emphasizes such factors as proper storage of feed, record keeping, and correct use of medication and feeds. The program focuses on teaching youth to get optimum quality meat from their projects.

4-H is a youth development program that focuses on teaching urban and rural youth responsibility, community service, decision making and leadership skills through a variety of projects that suit their interests as diverse as livestock, computer science and photography. "These kids contribute meat to the food supply in America," said Steve Myers, Colorado State Cooperative Extension youth development and livestock specialist, who led the professional team that developed the program."It’s important that they learn to produce a safe, wholesome, high quality product."

The program is based around ten principles that teach the youth about feed, medications, record-keeping and general livestock management. All 4-H members are required to take the training before they are allowed to participate in any show or fair with their 4-H project. Then, each year the 4-H’ers follow a quality assurance checklist to help them maintain high quality. The training is given to 4-H members who are 8 years old or older, with a junior course designed for members through 13-years-old and a senior course designed for 4-H’ers who are 14- to 18-years-old. In addition to Colorado State Cooperative Extension specialists, the course may be taught with the help of veterinarians, meat packers and other livestock professionals. The training is given over a period of several weeks.

"Quality assurance is important to these youth because they are both Consumers and producers in the food system," said Myers."The meat they produce must be safe and wholesome. Although these kids may raise only one animal to take to their county fair, they still must be aware of their responsibilities as a producer. This program also embraces 4-H’s philosophy of teaching youth to become responsible adults who contribute to a quality lifestyle in their communities."

Myers added that some 4-H youth with livestock projects are the children of livestock producers. Often, youth in the 4-H Meat Quality Assurance program may help refresh the information used by their parents when making livestock management decisions.