April 2001 // Volume 39 // Number 2 // Feature Articles // 2FEA4

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Effectiveness of Quality Assurance Training for Youth

To teach youth the significance of providing a wholesome meat product to consumers, a quality assurance program for youth audiences was designed. Objectives were to introduce the responsibilities associated with food animal production and to teach skills necessary to produce safe and wholesome food. Interactive lessons on animal management techniques and practice in ethical decision-making related to food animal production were included. Conclusions were that participants gained skills in animal management techniques and the youths' opinions about consumer expectations were positively influenced. Furthermore, the program provided a successful model for including character education with subject matter education.

Rosie Nold
Extension Youth Specialist
Animal Science Department
Internet Address: rnold1@unl.edu

Dana Hanson
Graduate Student Assistant
Animal Science Department

University of Nebraska
Lincoln, Nebraska


When young people begin a project where the final product is food, they also assume a legal and moral obligation to produce a quality, wholesome, and safe product for consumers. It is critical that young producers are consciously aware of these responsibilities and understand their implications. Only with such an understanding will they deliberately adopt practices and procedures that allow them to fulfill their obligations to consumers.

Because of a desire to instill this understanding in youth, quality assurance education has become a major focus of the Nebraska 4-H Livestock Program. As youth learn to implement quality assurance practices, they will develop an awareness and skills that will affect their current projects. In addition, they will develop an appreciation for food safety and responsibility that will form the foundation for their future contributions as producers, consumers, or both.

Numerous quality assurance programs and training materials exist for adult audiences, such as the National Cattlemen's Beef Association Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program, the Pork Quality Assurance manual from the National Pork Producers Council, and the Milk and Dairy Beef Residue Prevention Protocol manual from Dairy Quality Assurance (DQA) Center, Inc. However, these materials have a strong emphasis on technical knowledge, with little discussion on responsibilities. In addition, these materials were designed for adult audiences and consist of lengthy manuals and lecture programs. These characteristics make the existing materials difficult to use with youth audiences. Hence, the goal of this project was to develop a more age-appropriate quality assurance training program for youth.

Materials and Methods


Existing adult materials were modified to be more relevant and interactive. In order to accommodate the entire span of ages in 4-H (from 8 to 18) the materials were designed to appeal to characteristics of 9 to 11 year olds, as well as to some of the characteristics of older youth. Research identifying the needs for each age group was used in developing program content and design.

For example, characteristics of 9 to 11 year old youth that were considered included:

  1. Are more interested when actively involved in making or doing something,
  2. Enjoy working in groups, and
  3. Are beginning to accept responsibility for their own actions.

The characteristics of older youth that were considered were:

  1. Can take responsibility in evaluating their own work,
  2. Are beginning to develop a community consciousness, and
  3. Are developing a growing concern for the well-being of others (Karns & Myers-Walls, 1996).

Considering these characteristics, the materials included numerous hands-on activities and interactive discussions where younger and older youth worked together. Furthermore, using the Character Counts! (Josephson Institute of Ethics, 1992) model as a framework, hypothetical situations applicable to quality assurance and livestock projects were developed. The situations emphasized responsibilities involved in producing food and exhibiting animals, including the ultimate responsibility of producing safe food for consumers.

The quality assurance educational program is an appropriate setting for character education because it provides a number of the critical elements that must be present for character education to be effective (Antes & Norton, 1994). These elements include:

  1. Relates educational experiences to students' lives,
  2. Provides opportunities for student to share their points of view,
  3. Uses day-to-day activities as opportunities to deal with values and ethics, and
  4. Uses opportunities for students to be responsible to each other by providing cross-age groupings.

Youth in 4-H Swine Projects were the first youth targeted to receive quality assurance training. The materials developed sufficiently covered quality assurance practices so that youth who completed training would be certified in Pork Quality Assurance at the Level III standard used by the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC, 1997).

For ease of use, all materials were combined into a "kit" that was used by county Extension staff. Items in the kit included a reference manual of technical knowledge, teaching methods, posters, stuffed pigs for use in practicing quality assurance procedures, hypothetical drug labels, and syringes with various needle sizes.

To provide continuity among county programs across the state, inservice sessions were delivered to Extension educators and assistants. Once trained, these staff delivered programs across the state, often with the assistance of local veterinarians. Over 3,500 youth were trained and certified in Pork Quality Assurance during the 5-month period from March 1999 to July 1999.

Testing Procedure

To determine the impact of the training on youths' opinions about and knowledge of quality assurance practices, pre- and post-tests were completed by youth who attended the training sessions. The instrument for youth ages 12 and over included five statements to evaluate their opinions toward quality assurance and consumers of pork or meat products, and five questions to test their knowledge of quality assurance practices. Because youth younger than age 12 have generally not yet developed a community consciousness (Karns & Myers-Walls, 1996), the instrument for youth ages 8 to 11 included only questions designed to test their knowledge of quality assurance practices and responsibilities.

To evaluate the knowledge of quality assurance practices, multiple choice tests were used. The test for the 8 to 11 age group included six questions, with multiple correct answers per question. Questions regarding injection sites and needle usage used pictures rather than words as choices. The test for the 12 and over age group included only five questions, but also with multiple correct answers per questions. A summary of question topics and possible answers is presented in Table 1.

Table 1
Summary of Quality Assurance Knowledge Questions and Answers

Question Topic Possible Answers for 8 to 11 Age Group Possible Answers for 12 and Over Age Group
Proper injection sites A. Neck* A. Neck*
B. Loin B. Elbow*
C. Rump C. Loin
D. Ham D. Ham
Needle usage A. 16 gauge, 1 1/2 inches Same as 8 to 11 age group
B. 18 gauge, 1/2 inch*
C. Burred
D. 18 gauge, 1 inch, bent
Records information A. Pig ear notch* Same as 8 to 11 age group
B. Amount of drug*
C. Withdrawal time*
D. Date given*
Drug misuse consequences A. Monetary* Same as 8 to 11 age group
B. Livestock show reputation*
C. 4-H'er reputation*
D. Consumer confidence*
Proper handling A. Sorting panels* Not asked
B. Electric prods
C. Slapping ham
D. Working with before show*
Responsibilities as exhibitor A. Feed & water* Same as 8 to 11 age group
B. Proper handling*
C. Profit
D. Safe product for consumers*
E. Purple ribbon showmanship

* Indicates correct answer.

To determine opinions toward quality assurance and consumers of meat products, participants were asked to circle one of the following: "Strongly agree," "Slightly agree," "Slightly disagree," or "Strongly disagree," for each of the five statements listed in Table 2 (below).

Statistical Analyses

Chi square analyses were used to determine if there was a difference in the outcomes between pre- and post-tests in the opinions of youth participating in the training. Because the quality assurance knowledge questions had more than one possible correct answer, the percentage of responses was calculated for each possible answer. The difference in the probability of having a response on the pre-test versus the probability of having the same response on the post-test was calculated and compared using a 95% confidence interval.

The sample consisted of 1,054 pre-tests and 1,040 post-tests for the 12 and over age group and 584 pre-tests and 612 post-tests for the 8 to 11 age group. The sample sizes for statistical analyses were lower than the actual number of youth participating in the training because of the need to have parental consent forms signed before youth could respond to the pre- and post-tests.



Chi square analyses showed changes (P < .001) in opinions for all statements. For questions 1, 3, and 4, the most desirable opinion, based on quality assurance principles, would be "Strongly Agree." The percentage of individuals who slightly or strongly agreed with statements 1, 3, and 4 in the pre-test was quite high, but a shift toward even stronger agreement was seen in the post-test. Similarly, for questions 2 and 4, for which the most desirable answer would be "Strongly Disagree," from pre- to post-test there was shift toward more "Slightly Disagree" and "Strongly Disagree" opinions. Results are shown in Table 2.

Table 2
Change in Opinions from Pre- to Post-Training

Statement   Strongly Agree Agree Disagree Strongly Disagree Chi Square
Consumers have a right to expect the pork they eat is safe and wholesome. Pre-test 91.7 7.4 .6 .3 < .001
  Post-test 97.0 2.4 .4 .2  
Most consumers don't care about how pigs are treated and handled. Pre-test 5.2 28.1 29.3 37.4 <.001
  Post-test 4.2 12.5 19.0 64.3  
It is the responsibility of every hog producer and exhibitor to produce a safe and wholesome product. Pre-test 86.5 11.4 1.5 .6 <.001
  Post-test 94.5 4.0 1.1 .4  
If a 4-H member forgets to record a drug injection...drug residue...4-H member viewed as irresponsible. Pre-test 50.7 36.1 10.0 3.2 <.001
  Post-test 79.7 15.4 2.4 2.5  
Using a tranquilizer ...calm wild steer...is responsible because protecting public. Pre-test 13.2 29.1 24.2 33.5 <.001
  Post-test 9.3 15.4 17.0 58.3  

Quality Assurance Knowledge

Between pre- and post-tests, there were significant increases in correct answers for every knowledge-based question for the 12 and over group. For all except one of the questions that also had distinctly incorrect answers, there were significant decreases in the percentage of incorrect answers. For questions where all possible answers were correct, there were increases in the percentage of correct responses for all possible responses. Especially obvious differences were seen in recognition of the ham as an incorrect place for injections and the elbow pocket as an appropriate place for injections (Question 1), and recognition of information, particularly withdrawal times, that should be included in records (Question 2).

Correct responses from nearly 90% or more of the youth for injection site placement (Question 1), information necessary in records (Question 2), proper needle usage (Question 3), and responsibilities of a producer (Question 5)indicate a good overall understanding of quality assurance by this group of youth. The only question for which there was an increase in incorrect responses was Question 5. This may be due an overall increase in knowledge about pork production and the accompanying responsibilities.

An increase in overall awareness of pork production could lead the youth to view the answers about profit and ribbons as correct answers. Furthermore, the low hog prices of 1999 led to discussions about profit in many different situations. The presence of these discussions by adults during or near the time of the PQA sessions may have influenced the youths' answers. In addition, the program's emphasis on responsibility may have led the youth to believe that increased responsibilities should also bring increased rewards, such as profit and ribbons at a fair. Complete results are shown in Table 3.

Table 3
Change in Knowledge from Pre- to Post-training, of Quality Assurance Practices, 12 and Over Age Group

Question Topic &
% Response Difference Std. Err.
(95% Conf.)
Pre-Test Post-Test
Injection Sites
A. Neck* 84.7 96.7 + 12.0 2.5
B. Elbow* 30.7 79.4 + 48.7 3.7
C. Loin 4.8 .6 - 4.2 1.4
D. Ham 37.3 5.3 - 32.0 3.3
Records Information
A. Pig ear notch* 63.2 87.5 + 24.3 3.6
B. Amount of drug* 74.7 93.9 + 19.2 3.0
C. Withdrawal time* 42.9 91.8 + 48.9 3.4
D. Date given* 86.6 93.9 +7.3 2.5
Needle Usage
A. 16 gauge, 1 1/2 inches 28.9 14.3 - 14.6 3.4
B. 18 gauge, 1/2 inch* 71.5 89.9 + 18.4 3.3
C. Burred 1.6 .4 - 1.2 .9
D. 18 gauge, 1 inch, bent 3.3 2.2 - 1.1 1.4
Drug Misuse Consequences
A. Monetary* 45.2 67.3 + 22.1 4.2
B. Livestock show reputation* 56.8 80.3 + 23.5 3.9
C. 4-H'er reputation* 63.1 82.6 + 19.5 3.7
D. Consumer confidence* 73.3 82.3 + 9.0 3.6
A. Feed & water* 89.2 95.8 + 6.6 2.2
B. Proper handling* 77.2 90.8 + 13.6 3.1
C. Profit 20.6 29.4 + 8.8 3.7
D. Safe product for consumers* 78.3 89.6 + 11.3 3.1
E. Purple ribbon showmanship 14.1 20.9 + 6.8 3.3

*Indicates correct answer

Results for the 8 to 11 age group also showed significant increases in correct answers for all questions. Of special note are differences seen in recognition of the ham as an incorrect place for injections (Question 1); the recognition of information, particularly withdrawal times, that should be included in records(Question 3); and recognition of the possible consequences of drug misuse (Question 4).

Following training, nearly 100% of youth recognized the neck as the proper site for injections (Question 1), over 95% correctly answered questions about needle usage (Question 2), and over 85% recognized at least three items that should be included in records (Question 3), proper hog handling techniques (Question 5), and the responsibilities of a swine producer (Question 6). As with the 12 and over age group, the only question for which there was an increase in incorrect responses was the final question related to responsibilities. We speculate that the same reasoning may apply here as for the other age group. Complete results are shown in Table 4.

Table 4
Change in Knowledge from Pre- to Post-training, of Quality Assurance Practices, 8 to 11 Age Group

Question Topic &
% Response Difference Std. Err.
(95% Conf.)
Pre-Test Post-Test
Injection Sites
A. Neck* 81.8 99.8 + 18.0 3.1
B. Loin 9.6 2.8 - 6.8 2.7
C. Rump 13.4 3.0 - 10.4 3.1
D. Ham 41.8 14.8 - 27.0 4.9
Needle Usage
A. 16 gauge, 1 1/2 inches 30.5 26.8 - 3.7 5.1
B. 18 gauge, 1/2 inch* 88.7 95.6 + 6.9 3.0
C. Burred 1.9 .5 - 1.4 1.2
D. 18 gauge, 1 inch, bent 4.4 .2 - 4.2 1.7
Records Information
A. Pig ear notch* 68.7 80.8 + 12.1 4.9
B. Amount of drug* 71.6 88.0 + 16.4 4.5
C. Withdrawal time* 36.0 78.9 + 42.9 5.0
D. Date given* 83.9 91.0 + 7.1 3.7
Drug Misuse Consequences
A. Monetary* 40.9 59.6 + 18.7 5.6
B. Livestock show reputation* 41.2 64.4 + 23.2 5.5
C. 4-H'er reputation* 45.0 66.4 + 21.4 5.5
D. Consumer confidence* 54.6 77.6 + 23.0 5.2
Hog Handling
A. Sorting panels* 68.9 86.5 + 17.6 4.7
B. Electric prods 4.2 3.5 - .7 2.2
C. Slapping ham 21.3 11.3 - 10.0 4.2
D. Working with before show * 90.3 94.0 + 3.7 3.1
A. Feed and water* 96.2 97.8 + 1.6 2.0
B. Proper handling * 87.1 94.3 + 7.2 3.3
C. Profit 22.1 31.8 + 9.7 5.0
D. Safe product for consumers* 74.6 89.4 + 14.8 4.3
E. Purple ribbon showmanship 20.2 24.3 + 4.1 4.7

* Indicates correct answer

Summary and Implications

Quality assurance training had an impact on youths' opinions about quality assurance and consumers, and on youth's knowledge of quality assurance practices. Emphasis on character development and decision-making skills translated into positive responses about the responsibilities of a livestock producer, both to the animals and to consumers. While most youth understood at least some of their responsibilities prior to completing the training, the quality assurance training served to reinforce the understanding of those youth and also to help all youth recognize the breadth of the responsibilities that they have as livestock producers.

Using 4-H project areas as a framework may be an effective method of character education. The 4-H project meeting provides an environment in which the youth are at ease, are interested in the subject matter, and have interested, caring adults present. These are all elements of an environment that are conducive to learning, the presence of which will make character education more effective (Kohn, 1997). The use of hypothetical situations related to the 4-H project provides other critical elements of effective character education, such as giving youth opportunities to share their point of view and using what is happening in the youths' lives as opportunities to deal with values and ethics (Antes & Norton, 1994).

The increase in knowledge of quality assurance practices for all the ages of youth provides strong support for the value of hands-on educational experiences and for cross-age training. The variety of topics available and the use of the experiential learning model for 4-H programming provide youth with the opportunity for significant learning in many subject areas.

Organizing content along an experiential path and establishing a relationship between content and experience are the first two essential elements that the National Science Foundation has recommended in development of science based curriculum (Horton & Hutchinson, 1999). These elements are common to most 4-H curricula. Using these elements will not only help youth learn the subject matter, but will help prepare them to use the skills they learn in their daily lives, engage them in intelligent decision-making, and orient them toward rewarding life opportunities (Harms & Kahle, 1978).

Educating youth about quality assurance will also benefit the livestock industry. The youths' knowledge of quality assurance practices will strengthen the livestock industry's standards for producing safe and wholesome food products, both currently and in the future. While the livestock produced by these youth may not represent a large proportion of today's livestock industry, the youth themselves represent the future of the livestock industry. Only a small proportion may be directly involved in production and use their skills in that manner, but all will be consumers.

Food safety has been and will continue to be an issue to consumers. These youth will be consumers and should have a better appreciation and understanding of the measures that livestock producers take to ensure a safe, high-quality, and wholesome food supply.


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Harmes, N. C., & Kahle, J. (1978). The status and needs of pre-college science education: Report of project synthesis (Final Report to NSF for Grant, SED 77-19001). Washington, DC: National Science Foundation.

Horton, R. L., & Hutchinson, S. (1999). Nurturing scientific literacy among youth through experientially based curriculum materials. National Network for Science and Technology Home Page [On-line]. Available: http://www.ag.ohio-state.edu/~youth4h/expedu/

Karns, J., & Myers-Walls, J. A. (1996). Ages and stages of child and youth development: A guide for 4-H leaders. North Central Regional Extension Publication No. 292.

Kohn, A. (1997). How not to teach values: A critical look at character education. In: Studies in Moral Development and Education Home Page [On-line]. Available: http://www.uic.edu/~lnucci/MoralEd/index.html

Josephson Institute of Ethics(1992). Available: http://www.charactercounts.org

National Pork Producers Council (1997). Pork Quality Assurance: Levels I, II, and III. Des Moines: National Pork Producers Council.