COMMERCE — The Meat Judging team at Texas A&M University-Commerce took home the Grand Champion prize from the National Western Intercollegiate Meat Judging Contest held in Denver, Colorado Jan. 19-20 in its first year of competition.
A&M-Commerce beat nine other teams that included Cisco College, Western Texas College and the Australian National Team. Zamarano University, a private institution in Honduras, also competed.
Team coach Haley Cole is a graduate assistant within the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources at A&M-Commerce. She received a bachelor’s degree in Animal Science from the University of Wyoming and is currently pursuing her master’s in Agriculture. She says that the four-student team has proven to be a special group.
“They are genuinely good friends, and they genuinely care greatly for each other,” Cole said.
A competitive meat judging team is required to have a minimum of four members. A&M-Commerce just meets that threshold, but the four students have already shown that they are capable of greatness.
“They have to work extra hard since they don’t have any alternates,” Cole said. “They have to step up and help each other since all four have to perform well.”
In competitive meat judging, the students judge the quality, trimness and muscling of carcasses and cuts of beef, pork and lamb. There is also a “Total Placings” category, in which students must rank the quality of four different cuts from worst to best as it relates to dollar value. In the “Total Questions” category, they must study those four cuts and answer questions about the specifics of each cut.
As a team, A&M-Commerce finished first in Beef Judging, Pork Judging, Total Placings and Total Questions. These placings, among others, helped them finish first overall in the team standings. In addition, student Madison Wynne finished first overall in the individual rankings.
Several Lion team members received high marks:
• Madison Wynne — High Individual Overall, first in Pork Judging, first in Total Questions, fourth in Beef Judging, fifth in Total Placings, sixth in Lamb Judging, tenth in Overall Beef
• Colleen Hooge — fourth High Individual Overall, High Individual Overall Beef, first in Beef Grading, third in Total Questions, fifth in Pork Judging.
• Kris Barr — sixth High Individual Overall, second in Total Questions, third in Pork Judging, third in Total Placings, fifth in Beef Judging, fifth in Lamb Judging.
• Katherine Bivins — sixth in Total Placings, ninth in Lamb Judging
The meat judging scene is unforgiving in that students only have one year of eligibility to compete, which means a new team must be formed each year.
Cole says that while it’s a special occasion to win a big championship, they are not done yet.
“Being a champion is a mindset,” Cole said. “It’s what you do after the win that makes you a champion.”
Dr. Randy Harp, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, had high praise for the team.
“I am very proud of our students. In the inaugural year for A&M-Commerce to have an intercollegiate meat judging team. It is unusual to have a win at a national competition, especially at the first contest,” Harp said. “This represents a lot of hard work, discipline and responsibility outside the classroom by our students. At the same time, it is representative of the cooperation and support by administration and faculty to allow these students the opportunity to represent the university on a national/ international stage.”
The A&M-Commerce Meat Judging team is preparing to compete again at the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo, scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 2.