The Texas A&M University Meat Judging Team claimed the 2022 national championship at the American Meat Science Association,  AMSA, International Intercollegiate Meat Judging Contest in Dakota City, Nebraska, on Nov. 13.

2022 meat judging team and coaches - 10 females and two males - pose with awards
Texas A&M’s 2022 national champion Meat Judging Team at the AMSA International Intercollegiate Meat Judging Contest in Dakota City. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo)

Team members, all students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department of Animal Science, placed first in beef grading, total beef, lamb judging, pork judging, specifications and placings. The team placed second in reasons and beef judging to clinch the national title.

Additionally, four students placed in the top 10 individually, with three members being named to the AMSA All-American Teams. The All-American Teams are selected based on the student’s individual contest results over the entire 2022 meat judging season, combined with their academic performance. Each team consists of four students selected from the over 90 students who compete in intercollegiate meat judging across the nation.

Texas A&M individuals rise to the top

Gage Walsh ’24, Sante Fe, was high individual; Nathan Barrett ’24, Normangee, placed second overall; Alexandra Smith ’24, Flower Mound, placed fifth; and Bailey Lamb ’24, Huntsville, was sixth. Walsh and Barrett were named to the All-American First Team and Smith to the All-American Second Team.

Barrett was also the team recipient of the Rachel Hamilton Spirit Award, an honor selected by each team to honor a fellow team member who they believe is the spirit of the team and embodies the spirit of meat judging at Texas A&M.

“The department is very proud of these students and their coaches on this great accomplishment,” said Andy Herring, Ph.D., interim head of the Department of Animal Science. “We must remember that the students juggle all their academic responsibilities in addition to their long hours at practices and travel for contests during the year. The fact that they can do that successfully is very impressive.”

“Coach Kaylee Greiner and I are proud of our amazing students,” said Jennifer Wyle, meat judging team coordinator, Department of Animal Science. “The depth and consistency across the team was essential to our success. At each contest, we not only had students reliably place in the top 10, but we always had a great showing from the alternates in the contest as well.”

The meat judging team consists of 10 students. At each of the contests, the coach selects four students who will “mark” or represent the team score. The remaining six students are entered as alternates and compete as individuals. According to Wyle, the marking team won five of the eight contests the team competed in throughout the year.

Team members who represented the department in the alternate portion of the national contest placed as follows:
– Molly Hicks ’24, Joshua, first.
– Cassie Brown ’24, College Station, second.
– Avery Foster ’24, Cedar Park, sixth.
– Rylie Philipello ’23, Bryan, seventh.
– Abby Tack ’23, Humble, tied for 10th place.
– Morgan McKinzie ’24, Stephenville, 19th.

The team is coached by Kaylee Greiner, Christiansburg, Virginia, a graduate student in the department.

Team participation provides students with experiential learning opportunities, career development

The 2022 meat judging team developed from students in the fall 2021 section of ANSC 317, Meat Selection, Evaluation and Grading. They began practicing on Saturdays at Rosenthal Meat Science and Technology Center in September of that year, and they grabbed their first championship title of the year in January at Greeley, Colorado, at the National Western Stock Show.

a team picture with 9 women and 2 men outside with Ice Cream Capital of the World written on a banner strung between two buildings.
Texas A&M’s Meat Judging Team pose in LeMars, Iowa, the ice cream capital of the world, while traveling for practices and contests. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo)

The team has competed in eight contests leading up to the national contest, traveling thousands of miles across the country. They spend nearly 70 nights away, to practice and prepare, not only for the contest, but to develop skills that can help them in their future careers, Wyle said.

“They’ve spent countless hours grading beef in beef processing plants, writing reasons, studying specifications and placing classes to make it to this point,” she said.

“Our judging teams add high impact learning experiences for our students, and their reputations serve as important recruiting considerations for future students,” Herring said.

While the majority of students on the competitive teams in the department are majoring in animal science, that is not a requirement to participate. Brown is an agricultural economics major and Lamb is majoring in agribusiness, both in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Hicks is majoring in agricultural science in the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications. The remainder of the students on the meat judging team are animal science majors. Regardless of their major and department affiliation, the students on the team all share a passion and interest in the meat science industry.

The meat judging program at Texas A&M is one of the avenues available to the department to recruit and train future leaders of the meat science industry. According to the AMSA website, “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.”

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