Preparing youth for a meat judging contest

Michigan youth have the opportunity to learn more about meat judging throughout the year. Whether at home, a local facility, the MSU Meat Lab or the state 4-H/FFA contest, youth can develop and apply life skills.

As you bite into a really good steak, chances are you have thought about the process of how the steak got to your table. But have you thought about what makes the steak taste so good? According to Michigan State University Extension specialist Sarah Wells, being able to identify meat products and their quality differences are important skills people will utilize throughout their entire life as they prepare meals or shop for groceries.

In an effort to help youth develop those skills, there are numerous opportunities to learn at home, local meat packing facilities or MSU. These resources will help improve identification of cuts and evaluation of products including carcasses, wholesale and retail cuts of beef, lamb and pork. In addition, youth can show off their meat judging skills at the state contest which is now held in July.

  1. With internet access, many free online resources exist to help youth learn from their own home. Texas A&M University, University of Florida and University of Kentucky all have great free resources that range in teaching youth how to evaluate meat to looking at practice classes to playing fun interactive games.
    1. To visit those sites, click on the titles below to reach those resources: Texas A&M University Aggie Meat, Texas A&M Department of Animal Science, University of Florida Department of Animal Science - Meat Science, and University of Kentucky AGRIPEDIA.
  2. Once the basic skills are gained from online sources, local meat packing facilities can also be a great learning environment for youth. Contacting the plant managers or owners is the first step in providing an opportunity for youth to practice their meat evaluation skills and possibly even learn about the harvesting process. Not all facilities will allow visitors into the plant or have the space or resources on hand to teach youth. To gain skills on retail cuts evaluation, another place to consider is your local grocery store to observe items at the meat counter. If you are looking for an added learning experience, purchase four of the same steaks that appear different and judge them before cooking them all to the exact same level of doneness. See if youth can taste the differences.
  3. Michigan State University also offers a great learning opportunity. Sarah Wells and the 2014 MSU Collegiate Meats Judging Team will be taking a break from practicing for their collegiate contests to teach both youth and adults about meats judging. An open house format event will be held Friday, April 4, 2014 at the MSU Meat Lab in conjunction with the Michigan Beef Expo. From 5-7 p.m., youth and adults will have the opportunity, free of charge, to rotate through stations in the meat lab. Stations will include retail and wholesale cuts as well as carcass classes. Participants of all ages are invited to attend the event and learn from Wells and the collegiate team members who will be stationed at each stop. No preregistration is required for the event, but those interested in attending should send an email ahead of time.

With practice at home, visits to the local businesses and learning from the MSU Collegiate Meat Judging Team, you may be ready to compete in the state contest. Individual 4-H or FFA members or teams of four can compete in the state contest. The Michigan 4-H Meats Judging Contest/FFA Meats Evaluation and Technology Career Development Event, is a collaborative effort between Michigan 4-H and Michigan FFA. By participating, contestants show their ability to evaluate carcasses and identify meats. Contestants perform individually, with their scores contributing to an overall team score. The contest will include three beef classes, three pork classes, identification of 20 retail cuts, and yield grade and quality grade three beef carcasses. Additionally, each participant will answer ten questions about a beef or pork class. 4-H members will also give one set of oral reasons and FFA members will complete a multiple choice test. The contest will be held July 25, 2014. Entries should be postmarked by July 1, 2014. Visit the event page for contest rules and registration.

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