Learning the Cuts: 4-H Meat ID Judging Contest

Waiting for the judging to begin

Learning the Cuts: 4-H Meat ID

“I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service and my health to better living for my club, my community, my country and my world,” chorused the 51 competing 4-H members from across the state. The 4-H pledge, recited after the United States Pledge of Allegiance at 4-H events, was led by Cape Girardeau County members Clayton Birk and Blake Aufdenberg at the University of Missouri Extension 4-H State Meats Judging contest and clinic held February 15 on the campus in Columbia MO.

Working in partnership with the MU Meat Science Group and MU Collegiate Meats Judging Team, contestants and clinic participants attending the event were able to develop and hone their judging skills, explore future career and educational opportunities.

“I did meat ID because I thought it would be helpful to know in the future,” said Asher Ahrens, a member of the Progressive 4-H Club. Youth involved with the meat judging program develop key life skills to aid in their future career success and success as life-long consumers. “Meat is my life,” says Denise Essner, project leader and, along with her husband, owner of Essner’s Custom Butchering. “We live the meat business every day. The concepts taught and demonstrated during the contest are important to the youth because soon they will be consumers. As consumers, they will be educated on what cuts are available, how pricing is done based on which muscle they are purchasing and what quality they should be looking for.” The 4-H year begins October 1 which seems strange but it gives time for members to sign up, pick projects and be ready to start their project work as the actual new calendar year begins. For a contest like the one the youth attended, they practiced at least once a week for six weeks prior to the contest. For those veteran members wishing to keep their skills up they meet a few times in the fall as well. At a meeting they usually look at pictures or fresh cuts to discuss bones, fat and muscle textures.

Coach Gracen James gives last minute encouragement

Parents, Susan Ahrens of Progressive 4-H and Melissa Miller of Tilsit 4-H both agree that they learned as much as their youth did. “When I started taking my sons to meat ID, I had no idea how the cuts were identified or what made one better than another. I learned along with them so it was a learning activity we could do together. We still have a lot to learn, but we enjoy the time spent together and the time to travel to the competition,” Susan shared. Lawson Miller says his mom encouraged him to try it but says he now has more knowledge about meat and the different cuts of meat. “I encouraged Lawson to participate because it’s important for kids to challenge themselves in new areas. This is one area that they can build upon each year they are in 4-H. I have learned along with him and there are a whole lot more cuts of meat then I realized!” said Melissa.

Denise has been leading this project for at least ten years. Cape Girardeau County has had three teams that Denise can recall that have competed at the national level. “The first would have been mid 1980s I think and my aunts and uncles were on that team. Then there was another time and then the team that went just last year,” recalls Denise. The youth learn a lot but being a project leader has its own learning curve as well. Patience, time management and different delivery methods are just a few of the skills Denise practices. “As the coach, I have to find ways to teach the 4-Her’s 99 different cuts that they could be evaluated on. They have to know the species, primal cut, retail cut and cookery for each cut in the contest. We also have to discuss quality, cutability, and trimness as they have to place classes of four like cuts best to worse. Then we have to talk oral reasons. On two of the previous mentioned classes they have to give a set of oral reasons to a judge.” 4-H youth are known for their ability to speak in front of crowds and opportunities like this is what builds that ability. “The contest is fairly complex and the age of the 4-Her’s this year in Cape Girardeau County ranged from 8-16. Some were competing for their first time and others were on their 6th year. Finding ways to teach all ages and experience levels is a challenge and a treat!” Denise was not able to travel to the competition with the team but several 4-H parents and Gracen James, a Jr. Leader – a club for older youth that take leadership roles in 4-H - stepped up to lead the team while at the competition. Gracen enrolled in the Meat ID project only a few years ago; however, she competed for three years at the state level before advancing to nationals last year. Once a youth competes at the National level they can no longer compete at the state level. Gracen still wanted to be involved in Meat ID so she took the opportunity to continue by helping coach at the state competition. She is just another asset that Cape Girardeau County has and shows how much 4-H impacts the lives of youth. Denise says of Gracen, “The best part of being an adult involved in 4-H is watching the older members help the younger members. Gracen was the perfect role model for the youth. Just imagine being 16 and still wanting to attend practices and the contest – now that’s dedication.” And that’s inspiring!

4-H is in each county of the state but is headquartered on the University of Missouri campus. The State 4-H office is made up of a team of specialist in various areas. Ty Peckman, MU Extension State 4-H Agriculture Specialist and Bollinger County native - Maria Calvert, State 4-H Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator are the two leading the charge in 4-H Agriculture education. “Through involvement in a 4-H judging team, 4-H youth develop the skills necessary to make rapid, logical decisions and defend their decisions via oral reasons. Therefore, students improve their ability for critical thinking and accurately communicate their thoughts. In addition, youth become organized and self-disciplined, learn to accept criticism, all while developing self-confidence and becoming leaders amongst their peers,” said Ty Peckman. Alumni from the program have reported that success in the meat judging competition has translated to employment opportunities, internships and scholarships.

Programs offered by Missouri 4-H would not be possible without support from our partners. Sponsors for the 2020 Missouri 4-H State Meats Judging Contest include the Missouri Association of Meat Processors and Missouri 4-H Foundation. Please click the link to find out more information about the Missouri 4-H Meats Judging program or type in this address https://extension2.missouri.edu/programs/missouri-4-h/4-h-opportunities/4-h-ag-e...

Row 1: Shane Jansen, Hunter Aufdenberg, Blake Aufdenberg, Lawson Miller, Kasen & Asher Ahrens, Clayton Birk Row 2: Kyleigh Wolfe, Michael Wolfe, Lauren Crutsinger Row 3: Levi Jansen, Ryan Glenzy, Dylan Aufdenberg

About 4-H

“4-H allows you to do all sorts of activities, and you get to help out other people. You get to do all sorts of fun activities like working at Park Day,” said Kasen Ahrens of Progressive 4-H. Asher, Kasen’s twin, agrees, “4-H is a place where you do things like community service and learning activities like poultry judging and meat identification. You can also do other projects like knitting or sewing or beef.” With more than 55,000 members strong, Missouri 4-H is an active, dynamic organization of young people who are learning, growing and preparing to be the leaders of today and tomorrow – making a real difference in their community, country and world. “It’s a BIG learning experience. You get to interact and meet people your own age and interest,” exclaimed Lawson Miller about 4-H and his adventure at the contest. Parents agree that 4-H has a lot to offer. Susan Ahrens comes from a background with strong roots in 4-H and now her children have the same strong connections. “4-H provides guided learning experiences allowing students and leaders to learn new subjects in a safe way,” reflects Susan. All adult volunteers must have a background check performed before being allowed to work with youth. 4-H is not just the agricultural clubs most think of. It offers project curriculum for projects such as clowning, aerospace, geocaching, and shooting sports and much more. “4-H offers opportunities for kids starting at a young age. It’s knowledge and experiences that are life skills. There are opportunities for travel, scholarships and lifelong friendships. 4-H fits the kid who works better alone or the kid who wants to work with others! As the adult, it’s rewarding to watch children gain confidence and a passion for learning!” says Melissa of her experience as a new 4-H parent. As a leader, Denise reflects on her on involvement, “For me, nothing makes me smile more than seeing them grow each year and build on what we learned the year before. It’s not always about being the best or having the highest score. It’s about having 4-Her’s that had the best experience. Life isn’t always about winning but the memories made along the way. Watch a first year 8 or 9-year old walk into a contest nervous and almost scared then five hours later watch their smile as they place in the top 10 of their age group. Absolutely nothing beats that smile!”

4-H is the nation’s largest positive youth development program and is part of the University of Missouri and the nation’s Cooperative Extension System. For more information on Missouri 4-H, visit 4h.missouri.edu.

The 2020 contest included two age divisions: Junior for ages 8 – 13 and Senior for ages 14 – 18. Junior Meats Judging Results: Teams ages 8-13 years old: First Place, Monroe County; Second Place, Cape Girardeau County 2; and Third Place, Callaway County. Individual scores: First, John Paul Quinn, Monroe County; Second, Reid Ragsdale, Monroe County; Third, Austin Pope, Jasper County; Fourth, Gianna Quinn, Monroe County; Fifth, Hunter Aufdenberg, Cape Girardeau County; Sixth, Aiden Wimmer, Callaway County; Seventh, Shane Jansen, Cape Girardeau County; Eighth, Bryli DeLashmutt, Callaway County; Ninth, Blake Aufdenberg, Cape Girardeau County and Tenth, Emily Harris, Callaway County.

Senior Meats Judging Results: Teams ages 14 years old and over: First Place, Jasper County; Second Place, Callaway County; and Third Place Cape Girardeau. Individual scores: First, Rose Quinn, Monroe County; Second, Mallory Greiwe, Monroe County; Third, Kiley Braun, Platte County; Fourth, Luke Anibal, Jasper County; Fifth, Dylan Aufdenberg, Cape Girardeau County; Sixth, Kirsten Harris, Callaway County; Seventh, Melanie Loesch, Cole County; Eighth Cassidy Murphy; Ninth, Brett Rockers, Jasper County; Tenth, Korbin Fast, Jasper County. The members of the championship team from Jasper County will advance to represent Missouri at the National 4-H Meats Judging Contest held in the fall as part of the American Royal.