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Picking that perfect steak starts in 4-H

Youth meats judging competition builds the confidence of future consumers.

March 19, 2021

3 Min Read
grocery store meat case
RIGHT CHOICE: Picking a quality beef steak can ensure a repeat customer. An uneducated guess at what makes a good steak can turn consumers off. A 4-H program offers the next generation a chance to understand meat quality before buying. Martina Rigoli/Getty Images

Before I was 10, I knew exactly what marbling was and the important role it played in a steak. It was all because I stood for long hours freezing, staring at a hanging side of beef split to reveal the rib-eye.

It was not something many young kids would give up a Saturday to do — perusing the grocery store meat counter or standing in a walk-in cooler — but my mother insisted I take part in 4-H meats judging in my younger years.

Our “junior” team spent time at the IGA, now long gone from our small town, and Wright City Meats. The butchers and my 4-H meats team coach volunteered time to help us first identify different cuts of beef, pork and lamb, and walk us through the importance of marbling and fat.

Then they set up classes for us to judge. The countless weekend practices culminated in a trip to the University of Missouri in Columbia for the state competition.

Despite the frigid temperatures, my mother was right. To this day, I still use those skills — albeit a little less because we purchase most of our beef and pork right off the farm. However, I know what a good cut of meat should look like. I think everyone should.

Meats tradition continues

Missouri 4-H members still have that opportunity to compete in the University of Missouri Extension 4-H State Meats Judging Contest. This year’s event drew 45 competitors from across the state. And according to Maria Calvert, MU Extension state 4-H agriculture and natural resources educator, while youth followed safety protocols, it was a well-attended event with quality 4-H’ers.

The contest, held in partnership with the MU Meat Science Program, provided youths the opportunity to develop and hone their judging skills and explore future career and educational opportunities, Calvert says.

4-H members learn how to identify cuts of meat

TIME'S UP: 4-H members learn how to identify cuts of meat at the 2021 State 4-H Meats Judging Contest.

Like me, many participants felt they learned a lot by being involved in the contest. Calvert says 97% felt they are educated consumers of agricultural products, and 92% are comfortable sharing their knowledge of agriculture with others. After competing, more than half the youths said they now had more knowledge in the areas of carcass judging, cuts judging and cut identification. I think this bodes well for future consumers.

Below are lists of top-placing teams and individuals for both the junior and senior divisions.

Junior division (ages 8-13)

The top 3 teams, in order, were Callaway County, Jasper County 2 and Cape Girardeau County.

The top 10 individuals, in order, were Gianna Quinn, Monroe County; Austin Pope, Jasper County; Aiden Wimmer, Callaway County; Bryli DeLashmutt, Callaway County; Kirsten Harris, Callaway County; Emily Harris, Callaway County; Hunter Aufdenberg, Cape Girardeau County; Blake Gates, Randolph County; Josie Schulte, Osage County; and Robert Quinn, Monroe County.

Senior division (ages 14-18)

The top 3 teams, in order, were Monroe County, Audrain County and Cole/Platte counties.

The top 10 individuals, in order, were Rose Quinn, Monroe County; Tucker Robnett, Audrain County; John Paul Quinn, Monroe County; Mallory Greiwe, Monroe County; Reid Ragsdale, Monroe County; Lance Fort, Audrain County; Paighton Witt, Franklin County; Pacey Cope, Audrain County; Dylan Aufdenberg, Cape Girardeau County; Kalaa Clark, Webster County.

The championship team in the senior division, Monroe County, will represent Missouri in the National 4-H Meats Judging Contest this fall at the American Royal.

Sponsors for the 2021 Missouri 4-H State Meats Judging Contest include the Missouri Association of Meat Processors and Missouri 4-H Foundation.

I’d also like to give a tip of the hat to those volunteer coaches, meat lockers and butchers who stepped in to help enlighten the next generation of product developers, animal nutritionists, meat scientists and future consumers, not to mention this old ag journalist. Thanks for all you do!

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