The Starks-Billings County meat judging teams performed exceptionally well for their county, with all three teams placing in the top two of their respective divisions at the North Dakota State meat judging contest.
According to Kurt Froelich, a coach of the Starks-Billings meat judging teams, meat judging through 4-H helps youth develop lifelong skills that will stay with them well after their 4-H career is over, including decision making, communication, confidence and much more.
“It exposes them to the meat industry,” Froelich said. “So if they come from a farm or ranch-type of setting, or if they have done livestock judging, with meats judging they get to see the other side of it, after the animal is harvested. They also start to learn some of the industry standards.”
In the 4-H meat judging contest, there are multiple classes the youth can take part in, such as a pork carcass class, beef loin class, retail cut classes and more. Within the variety of classes, the 4-H member will be responsible for placing four carcasses.
Depending on the 4-Her’s age, they may be asked to identify the specific cut they are judging. They may have to identify 10, 20 or even 30 different retail cuts, according to Froelich. The member would have to identify the species, the wholesale cut, the retail cut name and the recommended cookery method.
The Stark-Billings meat judging teams work extensively to learn and retain information needed to do well in the state contest. The team meets once or twice a week in a classroom-like setting. There they watch videos of classes being placed and discuss why they are placed the way they are. They also place the classes themselves, study note cards and explain why they placed the class in the order they did. However, not all the prepping for the competition is done in one set location.
“We have taken students to a grocery store and taken a cut of meat and hidden the name and had them identify it,” Froelich said. “This year we were able to secure a local butcher shop in New Salem. They allowed us to come in and they had some beef carcasses that we were able to look at. So in preparation for the contest they got to see some actual products, which is really helpful.
The winner of the North Dakota 4-H state meat judging contest is eligible to represent the state in the national contest, which is held in Manhattan, Kan. Come October, the Stark-Billings county meat judging team will be making the trek to Kansas to compete.