The University of Georgia Meat Judging Team is high on the hog after a deciding win at the Southeastern Intercollegiate Meat Judging Contest this spring. From grading beef to ranking cuts of pork, the students proved their skills by coming in 84 points above second place finishers North Dakota State University.
The contest, held April 15-16, was hosted by the University of Kentucky and Ohio State University with competitions taking place in Lexington, Ky., and Columbus, Ohio. Ten teams representing eight universities competed.
UGA team members who participated were Zach Cowart of Douglasville, Ga.; Justin Brown of Athens, Ga.; Kayla Mangrum of Byron, Ga.; Tyson Strickland of Winterville, Ga.; and Jessica Long of Stockbridge, Ga.
“The best part has been getting to see these students learn so much about the animal industry as a whole and further their understanding of the end product and gain an appreciation for meat science,” said Melissa Miller, the team’s coach and a UGA graduate student studying meat science. “Also, seeing them grow up and polishing their communication skills and just become better people, that’s been neat.”
A meat judging competition involves several different categories. Students try their skills at different classes of beef, lamb and pork carcasses and cuts. They also grade meat for its yield and quality and how well it was cut. In the reasons category, students learn to quickly defend and give reasons for how they evaluated the meat.
“The goal of meat judging is to teach students how to make decisions and how to defend those decisions,” Miller said.
The 2011 meat judging team is UGA’s first since 2004. Miller started the team after bringing her judging knowledge from the University of Florida up to UGA, where she is getting her master’s degree. Brown and Strickland then added their high school judging experiences, and the team was born.
The Southeastern win was especially sweet for the team after a hard loss at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo in March. “It was difficult to show up there and not do well,” Miller said. “But to go to Southeast and blow them away felt really good. It made them want to continue to work hard.”
UGA won first as a team in beef judging, lamb judging, specifications, total placings and reasons. They came in second in overall beef, third in beef grading and fifth in pork judging.
Cowart was the high individual overall by 15 points. He won first in overall beef and pork judging, second in placings and beef grading, third in beef judging, fourth in reasons and sixth in specifications. Brown was the third high individual overall. He placed first in specifications and second in lamb judging. Strickland was sixth high individual overall. He came in second in specifications and ninth in reasons. Mangrum came in fifth in lamb judging, sixth in reasons and eighth in beef judging. Long placed 10th in overall beef.
“It feels great to see all of their hard work pay off,” Miller said. “Through hard work, you can find success.”