January 6, 2011
It doesn’t take an unusual youth to fare well in a meats judging contest. But it takes
a special one.
Work ethic must be beyond question.
“It takes a very dedicated person,” Johnson County Extension agent Zach Davis said. “There’s a lot of study involved and quite a bit of memorization. Retail cuts of meat are a big part of the contest, and if you can remember what that cut looks like, that’s quite a few points you can gain or lose. There’s also a lot of anatomy and physiology involved, knowing the different muscles involved in the carcasses.
“It takes a confident person in public speaking. You can’t be afraid to justify why you placed the carcass class like you did.”
It also takes experience, one of the biggest things the Johnson County 4-H team will have going for it this weekend in the national meats judging contest at Fort Colllins, Colo. The team of Mallorie Phelps, Tanner Schmidt, Justin Clopton and Drew Cassen placed second in state this year to qualify for nationals after placing third in state last year.
Phelps, Schmidt and Clopton are from Grandview and Cassen from Burleson. Phelps, Schmidt and Clopton were also part of an FFA state-winning meats judging team several years ago. Schmidt and Clopton have already graduated from Grandview High.
“All these kids have the experience to do well,” Davis said. “It comes down to having the right mindset when you walk in the door and being prepared to spend the whole day inside a cooler. We’ll leave early Thursday morning for Denver, spend a day in Laramie (Wyo.) preparing and then go back to Fort Collins for the contest.”
Johnson County comes by its success in meats judging fairly naturally. The Woolley family of Grandview has been heavily involved in the process. Most recently, Loni Woolley, now a student at Texas Tech, made headlines,
Woolley won high individual at the International Meat Collegiate Judging Competition in Dakota City, Neb. She was selected to the 2010 American Meat Science Association’s first team All-American team. All-American selections are based on scholastic achievement and competition performance through competitors’ one year of eligibility. Woolley was first high in the categories of reasons and pork judging; third high in lamb judging; and fourth high in total placings. As a team, the Tech meat judgers won reserve national champions.
During the season, Woolley was first high in the International, Houston Livestock Show and the American Royal in Kansas City; second high in the Southwestern in Fort Worth, the Eastern National in Wyalusing, Pa., and Cargill in Plainview; and sixth high in the National Western in Denver.
“Leslie Woolley has been coordinating practices and working with the kids, and Larry has been helping them hone their skills on things like reasons,” Davis said. “Loni helps when she can. We’re very fortunate to have them behind us, and Johnson County Farm Bureau gave us a very nice donation so we could go on this trip. We certainly appreciate that.”
The last time Johnson County 4-H won national meats judging was 2005 — Loni Woolley was a member of that quartet — “and that was a young team,” Davis said.
The Texas team has one advantage over other states in that its members know each other well.
Other states have an advantage over Texas in that they choose their national team members on an at-large, all-star basis.
“The other states pick the four best kids in the state,” Davis said. “Texas sends the best team. That doesn’t make it impossible for Texas to win, but it puts pressure on us. I think our kids are very capable. There is a premium on teamwork.”
Contest steps include retail identification, retail placing, carcass placing and oral reasons. All carcasses will be beef and pork.
The retail cuts will come from the latest approved national 4-H Meat Identification Cut Master List. Steaks and chops will not exceed a thickness of 1 1/4 inches. Roasts will be at least 1 1/2 inches thick. Each cut will be packages in a tray with clear wrapping and with the most identifiable side displayed.
Beef retail cut placing/reasons classes will be from beef chuck, arm roast; beef rib, rib steak, small end; beef loin, T-bone or porterhouse steak; beef loin, top loin steak, boneless; beef loin, top sirloin steak; beef round and round steak.
Pork retail cut placing/reasons classes will be from pork shoulder, blade Boston roast; pork shoulder, blade steak; pork loin, blade roast; pork loin, rib chop; pork loin, loin chop; pork ham and smoked center slice.
There will be three reasons classses selected from beef, pork and retail classes. Each contestant will give three sets of reasons;. The contestant may not use notes while giving reasons but will be provided note cards to be used for preparation. Immediately preceding the start of oral reasons, contestants will have at least 45 minutes to study.