The Texas A&M University Meat Judging Team finished the spring season as undefeated champions across four intercollegiate judging contests from January to March. The momentum has the Department of Animal Science team looking forward to more opportunities to grow and learn as they prepare for the fall judging season.

“I couldn’t be prouder to travel across the country with this amazing group of students,” said Jennifer Wyle, lecturer and meat judging team coordinator, Bryan-College Station. “It is such an honor to have won all four contests this spring. It’s even more exciting that we still have many more chances to learn and become more competitive.”

The 16-member meat judging team, coached by Wyle and meat science graduate student Lauren Lee, practices at the Rosenthal Meat Science and Technology Center on the Texas A&M campus and at beef plants across the nation. The team consists of sophomores and juniors across three majors in the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences who traveled more than 10,000 miles to six states for the spring contests.  

“This season was certainly a team effort,” Wyle said. “All 16 team members received individual awards this season. I am proud of the dedication and the resilience they showed all semester.”

Members of the team and their majors are:

  • Kyla Beck ’25, Seguin, agribusiness.
  • Maggie DeLaCerda ’25, Denton, animal science.
  • Avery Flanagan ’24, Ballinger, animal science.
  • Trey Hoffmann ’25, New Braunfels, animal science.
  • Nathan Kerth ’25, College Station, animal science.
  • Gavin Kubala ’25, Schulenburg, animal science.
  • Karson Kurtz ’26, Boerne, animal science.
  • Tate Lane ’25, Pineland, animal science.
  • Madeline Luedke ’26, College Station, animal science.
  • Tanner Owen ’25, Canyon, agricultural economics.
  • Connor Pence ’25, Mereta, animal science.
  • Shelby Pieniazek ’26, San Antonio, animal science.
  • Dillon Prokop ’25, Llano, animal science.
  • Landon Southern ’25, Sinton, animal science.
  • Maddie Unruh ’24, Peyton, Colorado, animal science. 
  • Logann Weidenfeller ’25, Boerne, animal science.

“The hard work and dedication shown by the meat judging team and coaches is exceptional,” said Clay Mathis, Ph.D., professor and head of the Department of Animal Science. “To continue that level of success across multiple contests is no easy feat. The department is proud of the team’s commitment to represent our department, college and university with a high standard of excellence.”

Season began at National Western Stock Show

The team’s season kicked off in conjunction with one of the country’s oldest and most iconic western events, the National Western Stock Show in Denver. On Jan. 14, the National Western Intercollegiate Meat Judging Contest was held in Greeley, Colorado. The Texas A&M team was named the champion team, sweeping seven divisions and tying second in one.

Flanagan was named high individual overall. In addition to Flanagan’s individual placing, three other team members placed in the top 10 individual overall, and five members placed in the top 10 individual overall alternates.

The journey continued in Texas

For the following two weeks, the team prepared for their Jan. 28 contest in conjunction with the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo. Students competed at the Southwestern Intercollegiate Meat Judging Contest at the Columbia Packing Plant in Ennis, securing the champion title with first place finishes in three divisions and in the top four of the remaining divisions.

The contest was highlighted by individual successes of many team members, including Beck, who set a record of the highest score ever recorded in a meat judging competition with 1,094 points. The team finished the contest with two members in the top 10 individual overall. Luedke led the alternate division as the first high individual overall, followed by four other team members placing in the top 10 individual overall alternates.

On Feb. 10, the team traveled to Hereford for the South Plains Intercollegiate Meat Judging Contest at Caviness Beef Packers. The team claimed the champion title with top placings in two divisions, followed by second and third placings in the remaining three divisions.

Beck placed second high individual and two additional teammates joined her in the top 10 individual overall. In the alternate division, Pieniazek placed first high individual. A total of seven team members placed in the top 10 individual overall alternate division.

Spring season culminated in Houston

The final contest of the spring season was in conjunction with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, HLSR, on March 2 at Martin Preferred Food. Unlike other contests, the HLSR Intercollegiate Meat Judging Contest allows universities to enter two teams. The Texas A&M teams swept the contest by claiming champion and reserve champion titles, solidifying the team’s undefeated spring season.

Kerth was awarded high individual overall with a total score of 1,094 points, which tied his teammate’s record-setting score from the Southwestern contest earlier in the season. An additional six team members placed in the top 10 individual overall.

The Houston contest also differs from other contests by awarding individual placings in each category. Out of the eight categories, 38 of the top 10 individual placings were awarded to 12 Texas A&M team members.

Reflections of the spring season

Though the team went through long hours of practice and travel, Wyle and Lee appreciated the team’s eagerness and drive, always showing up to learn more.

“What impressed Lauren and I about this group of students is they never finished learning,” Wyle said. “We have very long days and spend many hours in the cooler. This group of students never complained, and they understood there was always more to learn. I appreciate their encouragement to each other and how they continued to show up ready to work.”

The season was a time of growth for Kerth, who reflected on how hard work paid off for his individual successes and as a member of the team.

“This season, I faced personal battles, whether it was grading, reasons or mental blocks, but it allowed me to grow,” Kerth said. “When it all came together at the Houston contest, it really felt great. It showed me that anything is possible with hard work and belief in ourselves as a team.”

Beyond the accolades, Kerth was impacted most by the connections he made with teammates and leaders in the meat industry.

“There were a lot of special moments this spring season that made a huge impact on me,” he said. “Meat judging allowed me to grow closer to my teammates who I now call my friends. Additionally, I met and learned from many different leaders in the meat industry, and I developed life skills that will be very helpful in the future.”

Work continues in preparation for final contests

The team will prepare for an additional four fall contests in three states.  Students will be provided study packets to review over the summer to ensure their minds stay fresh, and at the beginning of the fall semester, they will take a week-long grading trip to the Tyson Foods plant in Amarillo.

The first contest in September will be the Eastern National Intercollegiate Meat Judging Contest at the Cargill plant in Wyalusing, Pennsylvania. Their judging experience will culminate at the final competition, the International Intercollegiate Meat Judging Contest in Dakota City, Nebraska.

“It is an understatement to say that this team will be the team to beat in the fall,” Wyle said. “Knowing that, we will continue to work hard, fine-tune and improve our accuracy in beef grading and written reasons. I am looking forward to seeing what these students can do at the next four contests.”

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