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FROM READERS: Modern-day 'Meatheads' are a different breed of athletes

Monday, February 17, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CST
The University of Missouri Meat Judging Team was the 7th Place Team Overall at the National Western and Southwestern Competition.

Katy Shircliff is a graduate research assistant at the Division of Animal Sciences in the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. She is the coach of the University of Missouri Meat Judging Team.

SEC. Coach Gary Pinkel. Cotton Bowl. Whiteouts. Blackouts. Gold Rush.

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These things might ring a bell for sports fanatics, athletes or any student following Tiger Athletics.

How about beef yield grading, lamb carcasses, pork loins or specifications?

Sound like a foreign language? To a select group of Mizzou students, these phrases and many more have become part of their everyday lives. Figure it out yet? I am referring to the University of Missouri Meat Judging Team. Yes, I said meat judging.

The University of Missouri Meat Judging program has been a time-honored tradition for well over half a century. The first team formed in 1948 and now, 66 years later, the Animal Sciences Division at MU continues to enlist elite individuals to participate on the team and compete in intercollegiate meat judging contests across the country.

Students interested in joining the team begin practicing in the fall semester. Future judgers must learn how to evaluate beef, pork and lamb carcasses, beef and pork wholesale cuts and rank them based on value and consumer appeal. Furthermore, team members must learn to justify and communicate their rankings via written paragraphs called “reasons.”

Contests, which are hosted by various companies including JBS, Cargill and Tyson, are held in commercial beef packing plants across the country. Throughout their one year of eligibility, collegiate teams travel extensively to Colorado, Texas, Iowa, Pennsylvania and Nebraska, representing their respective Universities in up to eight contests.

The first competition is held in January at the National Western Stock Show in Denver, CO, just a few short months after teams begin practicing. Other spring contests include the Southwestern, held in Ft. Worth, Texas, the Iowa State Invitational in Ames, IA, and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo contest in Houston, TX. After summer break, the team will travel to the The Eastern National Intercollegiate Meat Judging Contest in Wyalusing, PA; The American Royal in Omaha, NE; Cargill High Plains in Friona, TX and lastly, The International Meat Judging Contest in Dakota City, NE.

The 2014 Tigers recently returned home from the National Western and Southwestern, where Mizzou was 7th Place Team Overall in both competitions.

Team members include: Savannah Angell (Centralia, MO), Kathryn Coon (Bethel, MO), Garth Gatson (Vandalia, MO), Cameron Locke (Stockton, MO), Blake McDonald (Sullivan, MO), Maggie Massey (Butler, MO), Miriam Martin (Meadville, MO), Maggie Shane (Chenoa, IL) and Courtney Spencer (Aurora, MO).

Participating on the team is a privilege, and while on the team, judgers have a responsibility to represent themselves, the MU Animal Sciences Division, as well as the University of Missouri with honor and professionalism. However, the hard work and dedication to the team pays off in more ways than one. In addition to visiting and touring other universities during practices, the team makes frequent stops to see historical landmarks and other popular attractions.

Perhaps more importantly, participating on the team is a unique opportunity for students to travel around the continental U.S., networking with future employers and students from other institutions, and gaining valuable experience outside of the classroom. All the while, these students are learning, and developing into well-rounded, future leaders of our agriculture industries.

Although you may never see them on national television, they are certainly athletes of a different kind, going above and beyond the status quo, and giving new meaning to the name “Meathead.”

For more information about the MU Meat Judging Team, please contact Katy Shircliffat keshircliff@mail.missouri.edu or 330-697-4607.

This story is a part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor is Joy Mayer.


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