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What is 4-H Meat Judging?

Florida 4-H members judge beef rounds at the UF/IFAS Animal Science Department meat science clinic. Photo Credit: Brian Estevez, UF IFAS Escambia County

Florida 4-H provides learning opportunities, camps, contests, shows and events in a multitude of areas for its members. The 4-H meat science project allows youth to learn about the different cuts of meat including quality factors that affect the safety and taste of the meat products we consume. The project culminates each year in April at the Florida 4-H Meat Judging Contest.  The 2018 contest is April 21, 2018 at the Meat Processing Center at the University of Florida.  The UF/IFAS Department of Animal Sciences also hosts a Livestock/Meat Judging Clinic on January 12-13 in Gainesville to prepare 4-H and FFA members for the contest.

What is 4-H Meat Judging?

Many Florida 4-H members are already in the production of meat products through exhibiting market steers, swine, sheep, and goats at livestock competitions. Through participation in judging contests and other leadership contests, agents, leaders, and youth learn valid, science-based information to consider when evaluating and making decisions, as well as learning proper meat storage and handling procedures. This knowledge and expertise to purchase safe, nutritious meat products gives future agricultural and food industry leaders a broader view of the livestock industry.

The 4-H Meat Judging Contest is composed of three areas, retail cut identification, carcass, wholesale, and retail placing classes, and oral reasons.  4-H members have to identify 50 retail cuts, including the species, primal, retail name, and cooking method.  Youth then have to rank eight placing classes (carcass, wholesale, and retail classes).  Finally youth have to give two sets of reasons on the placing classes that they have ranked.

This project area helps youth improve life skills, such as decision making, communications skills and confidence, but it also provides them a very practical skill they can use every time they visit the grocery store or butcher shop. Youth learn how to examine a cut of meat to determine which will be of the highest quality and flavor. Whether they cook for themselves or others, this useful skill will be perfected over time.

Another exciting aspect of the Florida 4-H Meat Judging Contest is the opportunity to attend National 4-H Meat Judging Contests.  The first place senior team earns a trip to Kansas State University to participate in the National 4-H Meat Judging Contest as part of the American Royal Livestock Show in Kansas City.  The second place senior team earns a trip to Denver to participate in the National Western Roundup Meat Judging Contest as part of the Western National Livestock Show.

In addition to the meat judging contest, Florida 4-H offers the Hog and Ham program and the Florida 4-H Tailgate Contest:

The Florida 4-H Hog and Ham Program is a statewide 4-H program which takes the participant through the total process of pork production from beginning to end. Youth select a feeder pig and grow it to harvesting weight, all the while keeping records on feed amounts and costs, health care, expenses, weights, etc.  Youth harvest the hog and process it into wholesale or retail cuts.  The project concludes by participating in a retail comparison project, completing a record book, and presenting a demonstration or illustrated talk to the other participants.

The Florida 4-H Tailgate Contest was created to further enhance the 4-H meat project by allowing youth to demonstrate their food and fire safety, meat selection, and outdoor cooking skills.  Youth grill one of four proteins: beef, pork, poultry (half chicken or whole turkey breast), or shrimp.  Youth are judged on their food and fire safety and meat palatability.  Four regional contests throughout Florida are held between April and July, with a state contest held in the fall.  Over $18,000 in scholarships were provided for winners in 2017.

The Florida 4-H meat judging contest is a fun event that can enhance your knowledge of the agricultural and food industries.  The Florida 4-H Meat Judging Contest, in conjunction with the Florida 4-H Hog and Ham Program and the Florida 4-H Tailgate Contest, provides a well-rounded animal science education to all Florida 4-H members!

For more information about getting started (either as a youth member or as a volunteer), contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office.

PG

Author: bestevez - bestevez@ufl.edu

UF/IFAS Extension Escambia County 4-H Coordinator