Enhancements to Live Bird Shows at 4-H Youth Events

On December 23, 2015, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) redacted the cancellation of all poultry shows and exhibitions held in Michigan that was put in place June 1, 2015. However, these alternative activities that were put in place by MSU Extension may still enhance your poultry show plans as these activities provide opportunities for 4-H’ers with avian-related projects to showcase their work and to offer them valuable learning experiences in the project area.

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Breed Class and Fitting and Showmanship Alternatives

Fitting and Showmanship With Life-Like Bird Models

MSU Extension will purchase and distribute life-like bird models for use in fitting and showmanship contests. Judges will place the classes just as they would if the birds being shown were alive. Sample question lists will be provided to MSU Extension staff and judges.

Exhibitors must wear clean clothing and shoes (or boot coverings) to participate. Before handling the life-like bird model, exhibitors must sanitize their hands. After completing the show and returning to their home flocks, exhibitors should change their clothing and shoes before having any contact with their own birds.

Interview Judging

Members can demonstrate their knowledge of the breed characteristics of their own show birds, answer poultry management and industry questions, and discuss biosecurity protocols with the judge. The judge will use the Danish rating system (with A, B and C awards) to evaluate the class based on the entrants’ knowledge and skill. Sample question lists will be provided to MSU Extension staff and judges. Note: Participants should bring a photo of their bird to help with breed evaluation.

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Broiler and Market Bird Auction Regulations

These regulations are based on the processing facility used by the fair.

Options for Fairs that Use U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)- or MDARD-Approved Processing Facilities

Note: The only USDA-approved facilities for poultry in Michigan are Munsell’s Poultry Processing in Fowlerville and Scotts Hook & Cleaver, doing business as Pease Packing, in Scotts. There are several other facilities in Michigan with USDA approval for the slaughter of other species and poultry processing, but not poultry slaughter.

Without Food Establishment License

Fairs that use a USDA- or MDARD-approved processing facility but choose not to obtain a Food Establishment License must transfer the ownership of the birds through a live or silent auction before having the birds processed. This is considered Custom Exempt processing. The USDA allows Custom Exempt processed meat and poultry to be used for the use of the owner of the live animal, their immediate family and their non-paying guests. Once sold, the birds must be transported to the processor.

Note: Projects cannot be evaluated before they are sold as live birds and carcass evaluation is not permitted with this option unless the processing facility is maintaining control of the processed birds and the consumer is picking up the processed birds directly from the processor.

With Food Establishment License

Fairs may apply for a Food Establishment Licenses from MDARD. The $28 licensing fee includes an inspection of handling procedures.

  • Fairs interested in this option must complete the Food Establishment License Application.
  • Be sure to check “FSF – State or County Fair only” box under the $28 license fee option. 
  • Send the application and a check or money order for $28 to P.O. Box 30746, Lansing, MI 48909.
  • Important: Check with your fair management to determine if your fair has already obtained this license in order to serve food on the grounds. If so, make sure the license contact informs the inspector that you plan to have processed birds on the grounds. In addition, some 4-H clubs may already have a license for food concessions. If so, processed birds can also be covered under this license by working with the inspector. UPDATE ON JUNE 12, 2015: MDARD issues Food Establishment Licenses for fairs on the spot at the fair, not ahead of time. If you have a concern prior to that, contact your area inspector. 

Live bird judging with a Food Establishment License

Once a license has been obtained, birds can be transported to the processor and then back to the fairgrounds for sale. Birds can be evaluated as live animals at the fair and sold as processed birds.

Carcass judging alternatives

Fairs and/or county 4-H programs can elect to have bird carcasses evaluated, instead of live animals, as long as proper food safety and handling procedures are followed as required by the Food Establishment License. The processed birds (regardless of having been evaluated or not) can be sold through live or silent auctions held during the fair.

  • USDA-approved processing facilities:

    Munsell’s Poultry Processing
    6131 Mason Rd
    Fowlerville, MI 48836

    Phone: (517) 375-9908

    Scotts Hook & Cleaver doing business as Pease Packing
    8713 S 38th. St.
    Scotts, MI 49088

    Phone: (269) 626-8891

  • View a list of MDARD-approved poultry slaughter facilities

Note: If the processing facility is maintaining control of the processed birds and the consumer picks up the processed birds directly from the processor, the fair does not need a Food Establishment License.

Options for Fairs that Do NOT Use USDA- or MDARD Facilities Approved for Poultry Processing

Exhibitors must transfer the ownership of the birds through a live or silent auction before having the birds processed. The purchaser will indicate where the bird should be processed. This is Custom Exempt processing. The USDA allows Custom Exempt processed meat and poultry to be used for the use of the owner of the live animal, their immediate family and their non-paying guests. After completion of the sale, birds can be evaluated and processed. Processed birds may only be picked up by the buyer (owner of the live animal after the sale), 4-H members or fairs are not permitted to deliver processed birds to the buyers.

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Sale and Auction Procedures

No matter what form of sale will be used at a fair, exhibitors should provide the following information for all birds to be sold: exhibitor name, 4-H club or group name, and bird identification (e.g. leg or wing bands). If processed before the sale, also include dressed bird weight. If not processed at time of sale, birds should be sold as one whole unit (not per pound).

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Market Egg Classes

MSU Extension requires that all market eggs be thoroughly cleaned with soap and water before exhibition. In addition, eggs should be disposed of at the end of the exhibition. Eggs can still be sold through 4-H and youth auctions, however the eggs must be disposed of after the fair and not consumed by the buyer. Disposing of eggs that have been on display for an extended period of time is a good food safety practice.

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Other Special Poultry Contests

MSU Extension encourages county 4-H programs and county and regional fairs to consider supplementing the fair poultry experience with additional contests, such as those listed in this section. 

Poultry Quiz Bowls

Contestants demonstrate their poultry-related knowledge through a quiz bowl competition. For more information on study materials, question selection and how to conduct a quiz bowl contest visit www2.ca.uky.edu/national4hpoultry/AvianBowl.html.

Poultry Egg and Meat Judging Contests

Have a judging contest using various grades of eggs, poultry parts and whole birds. (Note: All eggs and meat products for this contest must be obtained from a licensed retailer, such as a grocery store.) For more information on this contest visit www2.ca.uky.edu/national4hpoultry/PoultryJudging.html.

Chicken and Turkey Barbecue Contests

The contestants will be scored on their barbecue skills, a sensory evaluation and their presentation of barbeque products. (Note: All meat products for this contest must be obtained from a licensed retailer, such as a grocery store.) Contest procedures and score sheets can be found at:

Egg Dish Preparation Contests

Each participant must present a demonstration on the preparation of an egg dish. (Note: All egg products for this contest must be obtained from a licensed retailer, such as a grocery store.) Contest procedures and score sheets can be found at www2.ca.uky.edu/national4hpoultry/EggPrep.html.

Poultry Skill-A-Thons

Hands-on skill-a-thons using cleaned and sanitized equipment (such as that found in the Ohio State University Learning Lab Kits) will test members’ poultry-related knowledge and skills. (Note: Many county MSU Extension offices already possess Ohio State University Learning Lab Kits.)

The contestants will have 3 to 5 minutes at each of five to 10 stations to complete tasks such as identifying poultry breeds and equipment. Contestants who need help with reading or writing must request such assistance before the contest starts. No talking will be allowed between contestants once the contest has started. (Note: If using eggs and meat products for this contest, they must be obtained from a licensed retailer, such as a grocery store.)

Resources for creating poultry skill-a-thons can be found at:

Build a Bird Contests

Participants build models of their birds using synthetic materials such as polystyrene, decorative feathers purchased from a craft store and other craft supplies before the county fair begins. Creativity is welcome – the exhibitors’ model birds don’t have to be replicas of their live project birds. The completed models can be placed in coops and displayed with autobiographies or short stories written by the youth. The models and written works are judged on creativity.

All building materials for this contest must be human-made; no live birds or parts of live birds, such as feathers, are allowed. Exhibitors should properly clean and sanitize their hands and work space before constructing and handling their project, to minimize the risk of infection.

Model birds must be constructed of materials that have not come in contact with live birds or anything that has been in contact with live birds. (For example: you may not use a crate that has housed a live bird.) This reduces the risk of contamination.

County 4-H programs are permitted to decide whether the model birds will only be used for display or will also be judged. If the models are judged, the Danish Rating System (A, B and C ratings) should be used.

Educational Displays

Contestants create educational displays on poultry-related topics such as breed characteristics, common diseases, management practices, nutrition, and egg and meat production to inform fairgoers of the many facets of the poultry industry.

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