JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Fred Ferrell, director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture, and Mark Hitt, international marketing coordinator with MDA, departed Sunday for Taiwan on a mission to meet with Taiwanese and Japanese beef buyers regarding the future of Missouri beef to their consumers.

"We are very pleased to be able to visit these countries to show them our QSA (Quality Systems Assessment) protocol and demonstrate that Missouri's beef is a safe, high-quality product for their consumers," said Ferrell. "We will also be extending invitations for a visit to Missouri's farms and ranches in May 2006. Missouri has a superior beef industry to showcase."

Ferrell and Hitt will be touring Taiwan and Japan during their 12-day stay, meeting with beef buyers, the media and other interested parties to discuss Missouri's beef industry and Missouri's QSA program.

Missouri's QSA program was implemented in October 2005. Missouri is the first state to begin a QSA program allowing producers to sell source- and age-verified cattle with third-party verification. This QSA program allows consumers to track their beef purchase back to the farm of origin. Missouri has certified more than 20,000 head of cattle to date.

Accompanying Ferrell and Hitt are Mark Akin and Jeff Windett with Circle A Angus Ranch. This beef mission was partly funded by the Hawthorn Foundation, the Missouri Beef Industry Council, the Missouri Corn Growers Association and the Missouri Soybean Association.

SOURCE: Missouri Department of Agriculture news release.