If you’ve ever heard of meat judging, you might think it is a contest based on tasting meat or looking at random steaks. If you’ve been educated on the details of meat judging, you know that is it a rigorous contest containing various categories such as beef, pork, and lamb judging, written reasons, questions, specifications, and beef grading. However, if you have ever participated on a meat judging team, you know that it is so much more. Students credit meat judging to being a part of something bigger than themselves. Their journey through the 2022 meat judging season is unique and competitive, but most important educational.

Early in the 2022 spring semester, students from across the country loaded vans to travel to the National Western in Honor of R. Paul Clayton Meat Judging Contest in hopes to bring the championship trophy home. The morning of the contest, 105 attendees layered their clothes and put on hard hats and frocks, ready to conquer their first meat judging contest as a collegiate judger. Though the teams were new to meat judging at the time, they were nothing short of competitive and skilled. In the B-Division, Texas A&M University came out on top winning first place by 17 points over Texas Tech University. Candace Landrum from Tarleton State won the high individual honors. In the A-Division, Eastern Oklahoma State College won Champion Team, followed by the University of Georgia. Daniel Raab from Clarendon College won high individual. Concluding the awards banquet, the 16 meat judging programs loaded their vans and headed home to prepare for the next contest, the Southwestern Meat Judging Contest.

There were 105 contestants at the Southwestern Meat Judging Contest. The Southwestern contest was held in Ennis, Texas, on Jan. 30, 2022. Being the second contest in the collegiate meat judging season, overall placings switched around a bit. In the B-Division, Kansas State University took home Champion overall team with Texas A&M trailing behind. Ellie Kidwell, part of the Kansas State judging team, won high individual overall. Fort Scott Community College won Champion Team in the A-Division and Texas A&M University-Commerce was Reserve. Once again, Daniel Raab from Clarendon College took home the award for high individual. Moving into the South Plains Judging Contest held in Friona, Texas, with 112 contestants, Kansas State dominated the B-Division once again with Texas A&M falling in second place. Being the girl on fire, Ellie Kidwell from Kansas State took the honor of high individual once again. However, placings were switched up in the A-Division. The University of Georgia came out on top with team member, Levi Martin being named high individual. Eastern Oklahoma State College was Reserve Champion Team.

The next contest in the season was held at Iowa State University. Kansas State University dominated again, with Chesney Effling taking the high individual award. The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Meat Judging Contest followed close behind. In the heart of Houston, 18 judging programs and 123 attendees competed for the famous “H” trophy in hopes to being named the Champion Team. At HLSR, you are allowed to mark all judgers. Texas A&M- Maroon was named Champion Team with Texas A&M- White being named the Reserve Champion Team. However, Payton Schertz from Texas Tech University was named High Individual. Clarendon College won Champion Team in the A-Division with Daniel Raab being High Individual. Rounding out the Spring judging season, the University of Illinois was named

Champion Team in the B-Division at the Southeastern Meat Judging Contest held at the University of Kentucky and The Ohio State University.

Right before school let out for the summer, students from 15 schools participated in the Meat Animal Evaluation Contest hosted by Texas Tech University. This contest is unique in the fact that students judge animals based on how they look live and then get to see them in the cooler as a carcass after they are harvested. There is also a portion that requires the team to speak on a current topic in the agricultural industry. Kansas State won Champion Team with Texas Tech University coming in second by 241 points.

After a much-needed summer break, students hit the ground running in the fall semester! The smallest of the contests, the Cyclone Classic, was still a very successful contest with 28 attendees. After the Cyclone Classic held at Iowa State, the National Barrow Show was held in Austin, Minn. Being the first meat judging contest at the National Barrow Show in a few years, they were happy to host 51 contestants.  Kansas State University dominates the National Barrow Show being named the Champion Team.

The Eastern National Contest was up next on Oct. 1 in Wyalusing, Pa. It is no surprise that Kansas State University dominated again by 44 points, being named the Champion Team. Texas Tech University was named the Reserve Champion Team. Chesney Effling took the honors of being named the 2022 Eastern National Contest High Individual. Following shortly behind, the American Royal contest was held in Omaha, NE, being the largest contest of the year with 137 contestants and 22 judging teams. The competition was heavy and intense. Texas A&M came out on top with Kansas State falling to 2nd place. However, Kansas State still held the high individual slot as Ellie Kidwell was named the top contestant. Clarendon College held the title for Champion Team in the A-Division with Daniel Raab keeping the title as high individual. Heading up to the Texas panhandle, the Cargill High Plains contest was held. This contest was intense as this was the final contest for the A-Division, and B-Division teams were gearing up for their last contest before the International Intercollegiate Meat Judging Contest. The Cargill High Plains contest was held at the Cargill facility in Friona, Texas, with 107 contestants. Once again, Texas A&M won Champion Team with West Texas A&M being named Reserve Champion Team. Jacob McMillan from West Texas A&M University was named high individual. For A-Division this was the final contest, the last time to make their coach and program proud, the final decisions that lead up to the National Championship title. The University of Georgia coached by Anna Scott and coordinated by Dr. Dean Pringle was named the 2022 National Champion Team. The Reserve Champion Team was Clarendon College coached by Tate Corliss. The High Individual at the championship contest was Levi Martin with the University of Georgia.

The last contest of the year, the most important, and the most sought after was held at Tyson in Dakota City, Neb.,  for the B-Division. The International Meat Judging Contest is always the most intense, as teams hope to be named Champion Team to reward them for all the hard work they have put in throughout the year. With butterflies in their stomachs and hope in their hearts, 94 contestants showed up to Tyson on the morning of Nov. 13. Entering the plant, students had goals and aspirations for what the day would hold. After a long day, students gathered in anticipation to hear the results of who would take home the title of all titles. Texas A&M was named the 2022 International Intercollegiate Champion Meat Judging Team. Team members included Gage Walsh, who was named High Individual, Nathan Barrett, Alexander Smith, and Bailey Lamb. They were coached by Kaylee Greiner and coordinated by Jennifer Wyle. Kansas State University, coached by Dr. Travis O’Quinn and Lindsey Decker, was the Reserve International Meat Judging Team.

Although meat judging is competitive, intense, and rigorous, students can’t help but express the sense of belonging it gives them. When asking peers from Texas Tech, they credit meat judging to giving them a family and skills they can use for the rest of their lives. The culture on a meat judging team is different and hard to put into words. Students are thankful for the time they spend on a meat judging team, regardless of the early mornings, late nights, and contest results.

The contests and overall student experience would not be possible with the immense amount of hours the coaches and coordinators commit to the student’s growth and development as well as the generous sponsors that enable AMSA to host and facilitate first-class educational and competitive experiences for students.

Keep up with the 2023 Meat Judging Teams this next year as they go through their very own journey as meat judgers. Follow AMSA on social media to see what school comes out on top next!

Kielee Whitewood is a 2022 AMSA intern.