A&M-Commerce Meat Judging Team Named Grand Champion at National Contest

The Meat Judging team at Texas A&M University-Commerce took home the Grand Champion prize from the National Western Intercollegiate Meat Judging Contest held in Denver, Colorado on January 19-20 in its first year of competition.

A&M-Commerce beat nine other teams that included Cisco College, Western Texas College and the Australian National Team. Zamarano University, a private institution in Honduras, also competed.

Team coach Haley Cole is a graduate assistant within the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources at A&M-Commerce. She received a bachelor’s degree in Animal Science from the University of Wyoming, and is currently pursuing her master’s in Agriculture. She says that the four-student team has proven to be a special group.

“They are genuinely good friends and they genuinely care greatly for each other,” Cole said.

A competitive meat judging team is required to have a minimum of four members. A&M-Commerce just meets that threshold, but the four students have already shown that they are capable of greatness.

“They have to work extra hard since they don’t have any alternates,” Cole said. “They have to step up and help each other since all four have to perform well.”

In competitive meat judging, the students judge the quality, trimness and muscling of carcasses and cuts of beef, pork and lamb. There is also a “Total Placings” category, where students must rank the quality of four different cuts from worst to best as it relates to dollar value. In the “Total Questions” category, they must then study those four cuts and answer questions about the specifics of each cut.

As a team, A&M-Commerce finished first in Beef Judging, Pork Judging, Total Placings and Total Questions. These placings, among others, helped them finish first overall in the team standings. In addition, student Madison Wynne finished first overall in the individual rankings.

Several Lion team members received high marks:

  • Madison Wynne — High Individual Overall, 1st in Pork Judging, 1st in Total Questions, 4th in Beef Judging, 5th in Total Placings, 6th in Lamb Judging, 10th in Overall Beef
  • Colleen Hooge — 4th High Individual Overall, High Individual Overall Beef, 1st in Beef Grading, 3rd in Total Questions, 5th in Pork Judging.
  • Kris Barr — 6th High Individual Overall, 2nd in Total Questions, 3rd in Pork Judging, 3rd in Total Placings, 5th in Beef Judging, 5th in Lamb Judging.
  • Katherine Bivins — 6th in Total Placings, 9th in Lamb Judging

The meat judging scene is unforgiving in that students only have one year of eligibility to compete, which pales in comparison to the four years available for athletes in more traditional sports. This means a new team must be formed each year.

Cole says that while it’s a special occasion to win a big championship, they are not done yet.

“Being a champion is a mindset,” Cole said. “It’s what you do after the win that makes you a champion.”

Dr. Randy Harp, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, had high praise for the team.

“I am very proud of our students. In the inaugural year for A&M-Commerce to have an intercollegiate meat judging team, it is unusual to have a win at a national competition, especially at the first contest,” Harp said. “This represents a lot of hard work, discipline and responsibility outside the classroom by our students. At the same time, it is representative of the cooperation and support by administration and faculty to allow these students the opportunity to represent the university on a national/international stage.”

The A&M-Commerce Meat Judging team is preparing to compete again at the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo, scheduled for February 2.