Meat judging programs are currently the most effective tool for the recruitment and development of future meat scientists in existence today. Meat judging is much more than just the determination of the quality and lean meat yield of a carcass or wholesale cut; the program serves as a training tool to develop young leaders in the meat and livestock industries. Judging is a competitive event for youth through collegiate age students and it has a deep-rooted history with the meat industry. Students equipped with a general knowledge in meat evaluation are able to be competitive in the judging arena, but more importantly will be the individuals that lead our industry into the future.

The Intercollegiate Meat Judging Program dates back to 1926 when the first contest was held at the International Livestock Exposition in Chicago. After the inaugural year, a meat judging contest was added at the American Royal Livestock Show. The program was originally sponsored by the National Live Stock and Meat Board, but then was passed to the American Meat Science Association (AMSA) in 1996. Today, AMSA sponsors six contests: the National Western in Greeley, Colo., the Southwestern in Fort Worth,Texas;  the Eastern National in Wyalusing, Penn.; the American Royal in Omaha, Neb.; the Cargill High Plains in Friona, Texas, and the International in Dakota City, Neb.

At these events, participants evaluate carcass and wholesale cut classes for beef, pork and lamb. After evaluation of these classes, students defend their evaluations with written reasons or by answering questions. These evaluations and reasons are scored by industry and academia experts. Additionally, they have to evaluate the quality and lean meat yield for beef carcasses which will be scored by an official USDA grader, as well as determine if various wholesale cuts of meat were cut correctly and be able to identify their defects.

This past spring, 26 teams and over 200 participants competed in the Intercollegiate Meat Judging Program. Many of these students were involved in career development events through FFA and/or 4-H activities as youths, which led them to pursue judging activities at the collegiate level. After their one year of eligibility to judge meat, many students transition to other competitive event teams such as livestock judging or meat animal evaluation. Judging is a tool that equips youth with information and a skillset to be successful. It requires participants to evaluate a problem, identify the facts, make a decision and defend that decision through written communication. The traits that meat judging develop are qualities that companies look for when searching for interns or new hires, such as being able to work hard for a common goal, working in a team setting, and being committed to a team for at least a year. This mentality explains why students that are involved in meat judging are 20% more likely to pursue internships than those that did not judge. Almost 80% of participants go to work in the meat and livestock industries.

AMSA is committed to the ongoing sustainability of this program and is actively pursuing development of new competitive education events to broaden the potential pool of future meat scientists. This will lend additional strength and depth to the meat science discipline which translates into a more powerful resource for the future of the meat industry.

Contact Information: Rachel Adams, American Meat Science Association Youth Programs Coordinator, (217) 882-6606,