On April 6, 2018 the Ohio State University Meat Judging Team hosted the first day of the Southeastern Intercollegiate Meats Judging Contest. Nine universities, with 75 total judgers participating as eighteen teams, spent day one at Ohio State and day two at the University of Kentucky.
The Ohio State Meat Judging Team, represented by Eric Moore, Ariel Watson, Jake Parkinson, Sara Page, and Carolina Fernandez, enjoyed success at the two-day event. Individual awards included Ariel Watson 5th individual beef grading and 8th overall high-point total of the contest; Eric Moore 1st individual reasons, 2nd individual lamb judging, 2nd individual beef judging, 3rd individual total placings, 4th individual pork judging, and 4th individual overall total contest; and Sarah Page 3rd individual specifications. Overall, the team finished fourth placing in 2nd beef grading, 2nd beef judging, 2nd overall beef, 3rd team reasons, and 4th team specifications.
Participants receive scores in five areas: class placings, beef yield grading, beef quality grading, specifications, and reasons. According to Paige McAtee, an Ohio State animal sciences master’s student and former judging team member, timing and scoring breakdown as follows:
- 15 minutes to judge classes that require written reasons, at this contest the following were reasons classes: beef carcasses, lamb carcasses, pork carcasses, beef ribs, and fresh hams.
- 10 minutes to judge placings classes (these are classes in which no reasons are written, strictly placing): beef short loins, pork carcasses, lamb carcasses, and center cut pork loins
- 30 minutes total are given to yield grade 15 beef carcasses (usually split into two, 15-minute intervals). This requires judgers to evaluate for back fat, ribeye muscle area and estimate internal fat without the use of any tools followed by a USDA short cut calculation.
- 30 minutes total are given to quality grade 15 beef carcasses (usually split into two, 15-minute intervals). Judgers evaluate skeletal maturity and marbling scores to determine overall quality grade.
- Specifications are given a rail of 10 cuts: this can be any sub primal from lamb, pork, or beef and are given 30 minutes per 10 specifications (split into two 15-minute intervals). Judgers identify any defects present, such as bone in a boneless product or incorrect muscle size due to improperly cut meat product.
- Reasons: 5 sets of reasons are written, given 15 minutes per set. Judgers are to communicate their thoughts/reasons on paper justifying their placings of classes using industry terminology.
Dr. Lyda Garcia, Ohio State Meat Judging Coordinator and Advisor, was the lead on the beef portion of the first day of the contest. She and the meat laboratory personnel/staff spent several hours preparing for this event. Preparation began with harvesting of livestock (beef, swine, and lamb), selecting of carcasses, and then fabricating carcasses into wholesale cuts. Pork and lamb carcasses were prepared for universities to practice on the day before the contest. Then, Dr.’s Garcia and Daniel Clark (both American Meat Science Association committee members) organized beef classes for the Southeastern Contest. Friday, April 6th, was the beginning of the Southeastern Contest that only included beef; beef carcasses were utilized for yield and quality grading and a beef carcass class. In addition, beef ribs and beef short loins were included in the competition. Preparation for the yearlong season requires a considerable time commitment. It is critical to follow a weekly practice schedule, if not, it is easy to forget important details.
“Our Buckeyes have practiced four to five days a week, (including Sundays) for 2-8 hours a day. It sounds excessive, but the team prefers it,” said McAtee. “This includes traveling to local packing facilities (Boliantz in Ashland, OH) as well as practicing at our meat lab.”
Participants believe the benefits of being on a meat judging team are worth the time commitment. Marlee Kelley, a graduate student and meat judging team coach at the University of Kentucky, was inspired to go to graduate school after being a member of the meat judging team at the University of Florida.
“Meat judging helped me learn about muscle biology; that’s what I plan to research,” said Kelley. “The things we learn about muscle biology in animals can help us learn more about muscles in humans. Everything that happens to humans happen to animals, only we eat them.”
Other former participants have also received career inspiration by being on a meat judging team (participants are only allowed to judge for one calendar year). “I was pre-vet and my advisor suggested I join the meat judging team to learn about anatomy,” said Ashley Langman, a senior at the University of Florida who is a student coach. “After the judging team, I switched my major to meat science and now want to go into the meat industry.”
Others involved with meat judging stress the interpersonal skills learned. “You’re doing a lot of things and looking for a lot of information in a short period of time, so it’s all about adaptation,” said Chalise Brown, a sophomore at the University of Florida who is a student coach. “You have to learn how to manage stress and time.”
Dr. Sherry Olsen, Iowa State University meat science lecturer and judging team coach, sees many positives in meat judging team involvement. “There are so many networking opportunities; you meet a lot of people in the industry. But you also learn personal skills; you learn confidence, communication, and time management,” said Olsen. “Many of our participants are eager to share their experiences by student coaching after their year of participation. They also go on to help with 4-H, FFA, and other organizations after they graduate.”
Dr. Garcia, known for her passion for higher education, strives to promote higher education in the form of fun, extra-curricular activities like meat judging. “One of my approaches is to use meat judging as a fun attraction so our ‘future’ want to continue their education. While they learn the 'game' of meat judging and acquire many soft skills, they also learn industry application; which in turn, makes them more valuable and employable,” says, Dr. Garcia. The American Meat Science Association leads the charge on all meat judging contests.
The Ohio State Meat Judging Team has three fall contests remaining in 2018. The Buckeyes will begin the season in September in Wylusing, PA at the Eastern Meat Judging Contest. The American Royal in Omaha, NE follows and the team will wrap up in November at the International Meat Judging Championship Contest in Dakota City, NE. For more information about the OSU Meat Judging Team and participation, visit https://ansci.osu.edu/undergraduate/teams/meat-judging-team or contact Faculty Meat Judging Coordinator and Advisor Dr. Lyda G. Garcia at firstname.lastname@example.org.