Escambia County 4-H is proud to announce that their meat judging team placed second at the National 4-H Meat Judging Contest. The team represented Florida 4-H at the contest held on October 20, 2020 at Kansas State University in Manhattan, KS. Participants had to identify 30 retail cuts, place six retail, wholesale, and carcass classes, and give three sets of oral reasons.
The team was comprised of youth ages 14-18, included Jessica Conti, Ethan Thorne, and Hannah Thorne. The team earned the opportunity to compete at the national level contest after winning the state meat judging contest in August 2020. The team was coached by Brian Estevez, UF/IFAS Escambia County Extension 4-H Agent, with assistance from Nick Simmons, UF/IFAS Escambia County Director; Dr. Chad Carr, UF/IFAS Meat Science Extension Specialist, and Mr. Case Emerson, Escambia County 4‑H intern.
The team placed second overall in the contest. They were the high team in beef judging and the second-place team in pork judging, retail cut identification, reasons, and total judging. Ethan Thorne received a perfect score of 300 in retail cut identification. Hannah Thorne placed 8th overall in the contest, Ethan Thorne placed 5th overall, and Jessica Conti was the high individual, placing 1st overall in the contest.
Through the competition process, the team has developed life skills through activities to understand the processing of beef, pork, and lamb, including retail identification, factors relating to meat quality, and cookery. Meat judging participants acquire knowledge and skills in meat identification and grading techniques and then apply those basic skills to the selection process. Participants then develop an understanding and appreciation of the basic scientific principles involved in eating and cooking quality, nutritional value, and consumer appeal of meat. 4-H members on the team also learn life skills such as decision making, problem solving, and goal setting.
During the trip to the national contest, the meat judging team participated in a practice with collegiate level meat judging teams at the Nebraska Beef packing plant in Omaha, NE. The team also toured the University of Nebraska at Lincoln’s Animal Science complex with Dr. Ty Schmidt, the Kansas State University Agricultural Education Department with Dr. Gaea Hock and her team, and the Kansas State University Animal Science Department with Dr. Travis O’Quinn and a grad student. The National 4-H Meat Judging Contest was held in conjunction with the American Royal Stock Show in Kansas City, MO and the American Meat Science Association.
The 4-H meat judging team would like to thank the many sponsors that helped make this trip a reality. This kind of community support helps the Escambia County 4-H program remain successful. Thank you for supporting our youth in Escambia County and helping us place second at the national contest!