There is a new extracurricular activity in town for kids interested in agriculture. Historically, 4-H and FFA members have been able to join activities like crops judging and range judging, and now they can join Adams County’s new meats judging team.
In early June, the meats judging team participated in the State 4-H and FFA Meats Judging Contest for the first time in Fargo.
Leading up to the competition, youth educator and coach Hannah Nordby, with the help of FFA Advisor Ronda Schauer, taught the team of young 4H and FFA students the skills to assess and identify different types of agricultural meats, whether it was pork, beef, or lamb.
So what exactly is meats judging? Nordby explained, “In meats judging the kids have to look at different cuts of meat and identify the species, the type of primal cut, the specific retail name of the cut, and the correct cookery method.”
The participants in meats judging are expected to memorize both details and how to classify different cuts of meat.
At competitions, students must properly identify retail cuts, carcass, and classes of meat by assessing trimness, muscling, and quality. The second portion of the contest consists of 4-H and FFA kids rating cuts of meat from best to worst based on their characteristics.
“They are given either four carcasses or cuts of meat to evaluate and then they look for different characteristics,” said Nordby. “Depending on the species, there are different emphasizes. For example, when looking at beef carcasses, the emphasis is on quality and the amount of intramuscular fat, because that’s what makes your steak taste good.”
For practice, the Hettinger meat judging team studied pictures and even visited Hettinger’s local meat packing plant, Dakota Packing Co., to view real examples of meats.
Nordby said that the skill set that kids learned through their practicing and competitions applies to more than just meats judging.
“There are individuals that will be going back to their farms and ranches after graduation. This is a great way to educate these kids about where their cattle will end up,” said Nordby. “It also applies to those kids who live in town who aren’t directly involved in agriculture. It gives those kids an opportunity develop their public speaking, decision making, and goal setting. In competitions, you have to make decisions and then explain to judges why you made those decisions.”
At the state competition, Nordby said that, given it was the team’s first year competing, the Hettinger FFA and 4-H teams did a great job presenting to the judges.
“Most of the kids were right in the middle of the group, which I thought was really great, especially with it being our first year with the team,” said Nordby.
Students involved in the program said that the experience was a fun way to learn new things.
“I learned that, even though supper markets may sell you ‘choice’ or ‘select’ cuts of meat, ‘prime’ is always the best. And that hair nets are a fashion statement,” said 4-H member Nora Larson.
4-H member Cloe Marquardt said that she was grateful for everyone at the competition that was willing to help out.
“My favorite part of the competition was exploring Fargo before the competition, and my least favorite part of the trip was being forced to wear hair nets.“
The results from the competition are as follows:
4-H Team Results:
– Oscar Laufer and Cloe Marquardt competed in the Intermediate division, placing 3rd.
– Cloe Marquardt placed 4th overall
– Nora and Rachel Larson, Kaden Schauer, and Logan Ebert competed in the Senior division placing 4th.
FFA Chapter Results:
– Kaden Schauer placed with a bronze award
– Oscar Laufer, and Logan Ebert also represented Hettinger for the FFA portion of the contest
As the team continues to grow, Nordby said that she hopes to keep building the meats judging program. She said that, during her time studying at NDSU, she had the chance to travel because of her involvement on the meats judging team and that she wants to share that experience with others.
“I participated on the meats judging team at NDSU, and it was one of the best experiences I had in college,” said Nordby. “I want kids to have the opportunity to be in these contests because I would have wanted that opportunity in high school myself.”