The Texas A&M University poultry judging team tied with the Penn State poultry judging team to co-win the 56th National Collegiate Poultry Judging Contest in Fayetteville, Arkansas on Nov. 6-8.
The team, coordinated by the Department of Poultry Science and consisting of students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, placed third in egg production and quality and first in both breeder selection and carcass quality.
Three of the five team members placed in the top 10 individually. Chloe LaBard ’25, a student in the Department of Animal Science from Katy placed fourth overall; Ashlan Barnhart ’26, a poultry science major from Winnsboro was sixth overall; and Cheyenne Pinkerton ’26, also an animal science student from Weatherford, was eighth overall.
Additional team members, both poultry science students include Mattie Adams ’26 from Onalaska and Naomi Boysen ’24 from Santa Fe. The team is coached by poultry science graduate student Brett Meisinger of Pagosa Springs, Colorado.
Department celebrates achievement
“I am proud of this team of students for continuing the department’s legacy of highly competitive and champion poultry judging teams,” said Audrey McElroy, Ph.D., head of the Department of Poultry Science.
“This win was big for our department and the students who competed,” said Meisinger. “Texas A&M has a strong history of excellence in poultry judging, and the team was excited to be part of that legacy.”
According to Meisinger, the Texas A&M team was relatively young compared to the teams they were competing against. The team of three freshmen, one sophomore and one junior competed against mostly upperclassmen.
This is the first time Texas A&M has won the national contest since 2018.
Hard work leads to success
Many of the students who participate on the poultry judging team start out judging poultry through 4-H and FFA. Once they graduate and begin to attend Texas A&M, interested students take POSC 304, Judging, to try out for the team.
The class focuses on selection standards for meat and egg strains of poultry, grading standards for eggs and live and ready-to-cook poultry, and organizing and managing poultry shows. Students meet for class three times a week.
The top five students from the class make up the traveling team, with the top four students competing in the contest and the top three scores counting as the total team score.
Students chosen to be on the traveling team have additional practices outside of class at the Poultry Science Research Center. The team receives abundant support from local processors, layers and breeders who help source products and birds for the students to work with.
“The team worked very hard, putting in countless hours to prepare and ultimately achieve this remarkable goal at a competitive contest,” said McElroy. “It is also a special victory for the department as it was Brett’s first time to teach POSC 304 and coach the team at a national contest.”
The contest itself is a two-day event. The first day of this year’s contest consisted of 10 classes of live birds, where students select breeder broilers and turkeys for their potential to produce the largest market offspring. They also judged past production hens and layer pullets for their body conformation and production abilities.
The second day covered U.S. Department of Agriculture grading of ready-to-cook broiler carcasses, turkey carcasses and eggs. The egg component included candling eggs for their interior quality, grading exterior eggshell quality and broken-out eggs.
While the contest is rigorous, it prepares students for more than judging poultry.
“Competing on the team and participating at the national contest not only creates a bond between the students working toward a common goal, but it prepares them for greater understanding of the poultry industry and poultry products that will serve them well in future careers,” said McElroy.