A wonderful write-up of the excellent opportunities for students to see the meat industry while on the meat judging team. JWS
By Davey Griffin, Ph.D.
Professor, Extension Meat Specialist and Coordinator of the Meat Judging Team
When students tell parents, fellow students and friends they are on the Texas A&M University Meat Judging Team, they typically get a blank stare followed by the question ”what does one do on a meat judging team?” Although the team members have plenty of experience, it is still hard to describe all the information and practice time in refrigerated coolers required to be competitive and successful during their year of eligibility on the team.
The truth be told, meat judging team members have a unique opportunity to experience a large portion of the meat animal industry that is not accessible to the public. They also are invited to tour and practice in university meat science facilities across the nation, and because they travel to various parts of the country, they have an opportunity to see and experience more than just the inside of a meat cooler.
The 2013 Texas A&M Meat Judging Team recently wrapped up their successful year of judging and representing the Texas A&M Department of Animal Science. During 2013, they practiced and/or competed in 13 meat processing facilities throughout Texas, the Midwest and as far east as Pennsylvania. They also were provided tours and information on internships and potential future employment at JBS USA Headquarters in Greeley, Colo., Tyson Fresh Meats Headquarters in Dakota Dunes, S.D., Cargill Beef Innovations Center in Wichita, Kan., John Morrell in Sioux Falls, S.D., and Beef Products Incorporated in Dakota City, Neb.
“One of my favorite stops on the International trip was the one at the John Morrell plant in Sioux Falls. Being able to see a plant on such a large scale was very eye opening and helped me to realize the importance of what I have learned studying meat science,” said Jessie Hoffman, senior animal science major from Kenedy and one of the team’s three 2014 All-Americans.
The 2013 Meat Judging Team also had the opportunity to practice judging, reasons writing and specifications in seven different university meat labs.
“Being able to travel to the different universities was a very valuable opportunity because it allowed each of us to see how schools across the nation differ from each other and to also meet several of the professors from the respective universities. The chance to see other universities and to network was great for those on the team looking to attend graduate school,” Hoffman said.
While on the road, the team has also had the opportunity to tour non-meat related stops such as Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell Museum and Betsy Ross House in the Philadelphia area and Central Park, Times Square, Wall Street, Ground Zero, Grand Station and others in New York.
“While we were in Pennsylvania for the Eastern National contest, the government was shut down which prevented us from seeing a lot of sights, but it didn’t stop us from taking part in the culture we were surrounded by, like by trying the Philly Cheesesteaks,” Hoffman said.
Regarding the judging experience itself, Drew Cassens, junior animal science major from Burleson, said “Judging meats at the collegiate level has always been a dream of mine since I started judging in 4-H and FFA. To judge at Texas A&M and represent this university with my teammates has been a true honor.”
Leslie Frenzel, team coach and meat science doctoral student, summed up the team experience saying, “Representing Texas A&M at an intercollegiate meat judging contest requires hard work, dedication and passion for judging and meat science. Traveling and competing on a Fightin’ Texas Aggie Meat Judging Team is an incredible honor, but most of all it fosters teamwork, camaraderie, and a commitment to a common goal. For many of these students, the friendships formed throughout the past year will last a lifetime. Given the opportunity to coach the 2013 meat judging team is far more than teaching how to judge and traveling across the nation; it is sharing and creating friendships and memories with these students. The members of the 2013 Fightin Texas Aggie Meat Judging team will forever be a part of Texas A&M judging team history and a blessing in my life.”