Inside MU’s Hearnes Center Fieldhouse on Thursday, behind blue and yellow curtains, students competed against one another to identify defects in breaded poultry products.
“Number seven — color, shape size. Nine — miscut wing. Ten — broken,” said Kevin Duncan, faculty adviser for Rock Bridge High School’s poultry team, as he listed off defects in processed chicken products laid out on little red plates.
The judging competition was part of the 79th annual Missouri State FFA convention, a two-day event that concludes today.
Students checked the accuracy of their answers and poked at the breaded chicken pieces they had judged earlier in the day. Some of the pieces were black instead of golden brown, an obvious color defect, while others were simply missing some breading, according to the answer sheet Duncan was reading from.
The state FFA convention is expected to bring as many as 7,500 students from across Missouri, according to Jeremy Whist, FFA’s media room technical assistant. During the convention, students competed against other state district champions in a number of activities that included public speaking, management and career-development events.
The National FFA organization, originally founded in 1928 in Kansas City as the Future Farmers of America, is a broad national agriculture organization that prepares students to work in the larger agriculture industry. The organization has a membership of 495,046 in 7,242 chapters nationwide, according to the organization’s Web site.
Wesley Clark, a junior at Newton High in Granby, said that he came to Columbia to support his teammates and learn more about agriculture.
“We want to be farmers, or something along those lines,” Clark said.
Participation in the FFA is designed to help them reach that goal.
“The convention offers a well-rounded program of personal career success in whatever career they may choose,” said Steve Brown, 22-year executive secretary of Missouri FFA.
Not only is the FFA beneficial to students’ futures, Brown said, but the training they receive also benefits the nation as a whole.
“Do you eat food?” Brown said. “These students are the ones who will help produce and process agricultural products, making sure that they are safe, environmentally friendly and healthy.”