What is the Elk Quality Assurance Program (EQAP)?
It's a program designed to reassure consumers that they are purchasing high-quality, wholesome elk products that are safe. Members of the program agree to follow specific production practices. Members can join as producers or as velvet processors or as meat processors. Procedures for harvest enclosure operations will soon be available. The American Elk Products Board administers the program.
Why do I need the EQAP?
Some producers say, "I already take care of my elk and make sure the velvet and meat I produce is healthy. What's the big deal about joining this plan?"
One reason for self-regulation of the industry is very apparent in the recent media coverage of chronic wasting disease. Writers questioned the safety of velvet antler and of elk meat. Standards for our industry products, and a majority of producers pledging to uphold those standards, are essential. We must be able to point to these standards as verification that the elk industry is mature and stable and safe.
In response to the recent negative publicity, other velvet producing countries are rushing to put together a Quality Assurance Program. The American Elk Products Board already has such a program that meets or exceeds the requirements to assure safe and quality products. Product carrying the Quality Seal may soon be the only product accepted by vendors and countries.
Velvet trace back has been specifically requested by Korean officials and by other buyers. The Elk Quality Assurance Program introduces its velvet antler tracking system for the 2001 velvet season. This provides trace back and, once again, assures consumer confidence. In order to participate in the velvet trace back program for this velvet season, producers must be EQAP members by April 15, 2001.
How do I qualify?
Most elk producers are already doing everything necessary to qualify for this program - common-sense good management practices to maintain healthy and happy animals. You must be at least an associate member of NAEBA and you must comply with the NAEBA code of ethics and the Current Good Management Practices for elk. Here are the specific assurance statements that you must sign.
All of my animals are Wholesomely Fed. I will keep records and bag tags of all purchased feeds that contain animal-derived protein for a period of two years.
All of my animals are AEPB Drug Smart. I will keep records of all medications used and dates they were used for all animals for a period of two years, along with the invoice showing the purchase of these drugs.
Before I use the Nature's Velvet trademark in any of my advertising and before I attempt to sell any elk meat, all of my animals will be registered in the industry-recognized herd inventory system on at least the inventory level or my animals will have passed the industry-recognized purity test (copy of this test will be made available to AEPB) or my animals weigh at least 400 pounds live weight as adults and have pheno-typical coloration and markings of elk.
I have attended the AEPB Velvet seminar or its equivalent and follow approved procedures for harvest.
I agree that no animals are harmed on my farm, and I follow the Current Good Management Practices for elk.
We are part of the CWD monitoring system in our state (if one exists). Attached is a statement from our veterinarian stating that our farm is not under quarantine for any disease. We participate in the AEPB antler tracking program.
What do I get from the EQAP?
You get concrete help in marketing your elk products. Joining the EQAP does not give you any guarantees about the price you may get for your velvet or your meat or even that you will find a buyer. That depends on many things including the economy, politics, and your own abilities as a producer and manager. But participants in the EQAP get some advantages over those that are not members.
The AEPB receives frequent requests about elk products (animals, velvet, meat, hard antlers, hides, ivories, etc). These leads are emailed immediately to all participants that provide us with an email address. They are mailed monthly to those without email. We are currently distributing an average of 3 leads per week.
Several buyers of both green velvet and meat have recently announced that they will buy product only from producers that participate in the EQAP or that they will offer a premium price to producer participants. This places you at the head of the line.
Recent conversations with Korean officials indicate that the EQAP may be the lever that we need to reopen the door to the velvet market there. There is every indication that velvet antler tracking will be increasingly required by consumers and by velvet buyers, both domestic and foreign. In order to participate in the velvet trace back program for this velvet season, producers must be EQAP members by April 15, 2001.
As a member of the Elk Quality Assurance Program, you may display the Quality Seal on any advertising that you do about your farm. This acts as your shield against negative publicity as you clearly demonstrate your concern for the health and safety of your animals and of the end consumer that purchases your products.
How do I join the EQAP?
Submit your application, signed assurance statements, vet statement, and trace back tag requirements (# of bulls you will velvet this season) along with your annual membership fee of $150 to:
American Elk Products Board
P.O. Box 44
Potwin, KS 67123
The vet statement must be printed on the vet's letterhead and say something similar to: "To the best of my knowledge YourFarmName is not under quarantine for any disease." It must be signed and dated.
By return mail, you will receive your manual, license, and the Quality Seal. If you complete the enrollment requirements by April 15, you will receive your velvet trace back tags in time for velvet harvest.
What if I miss the April 15 deadline for trace back?
We won't have time to print your velvet trace back tags for this velvet season. You will still qualify as an EQAP participant and receive all of the other benefits. You'll want to be certain to get your fees and paperwork done earlier next year.
What if I don't harvest as many bulls as I projected?
You will have a few spare tags. While we expect that management decisions may change between the time you order the tags and the time that you actually harvest, we encourage producers to give it their very best guess. It is possible, even likely, that the tags will change by next year as we further develop the program and find alternate suppliers, so there is no advantage to ordering extras.
If you have further questions, visit the AEPB website www.aepb.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (316) 752-3623.