UW makes the grade at international judging contest
Laramie – Each year an Australian meat judging team of 10 college students travels to the U.S. to compete at the National Western Stock Show in Denver, Colo. Prior to that competition, the team visits four U.S. colleges for team practices.
Those four colleges include the University of Illinois, Oklahoma State University, Colorado State University, and the University of Wyoming (UW), which is the final practice stop.
“Every year Australia invites one U.S. college to an international meats judging contest held in conjunction with a conference in their country. We were the fourth team to be invited; the other U.S. practice schools went the three previous years,” explains UW Meats Judging Coach Lander Nicodemus.
UW was one of nine teams to compete in this year’s contest, which was held in early July.
“We did really well, and were the second place team overall. We also won the lamb class, questions and reasons and primal and retail identification classes,” notes Nicodemus. In addition to faring well as a team, UW individuals made a strong showing. Brogan Clay placed second overall individually and won the retail and primal identification class, while Wade Allnutt won the reasons and questions class.
“We went over there not knowing what to expect and we practiced hard. We didn’t win, which would have been ideal, but we made a good showing. The team we traveled with prior to the contest won, so if anyone else were to win, I was glad it was them,” says Allnutt.
The team says there were some unique aspects to the contest not seen in U.S. meats judging competitions.
“The main difference was they had a retail and primal identification line. Basically, we had to be able to tell if it was a T-bone steak or a lamb chop or a side of bacon. They also combine our quality and yield grading system into a whole carcass evaluation. What we use as a scale of select, choice or prime was a number system,” notes Clay.
“They didn’t split the hog carcasses like we do, and the style was a little different. In the U.S. we have to declare our team of four prior to the contest. Over there, everyone got a shot at being one of the four scoring team members. We took six, and everyone walked in and competed and the top four scores made up the team,” adds Allnutt.
“Learning in those areas with which were unfamiliar was pretty challenging, and then to win in several of them was very gratifying,” says Nicodemus.
During the conference that hosted the contest, speakers from Cargill, JBS and other major meat-related companies spoke on Australian agriculture and the world marketplace as a whole.
“They discussed what changes they felt Australia could make, and what their strengths were. It was very educational to hear those individuals speak,” notes Nicodemus.
Team members agree the contest and conference were great aspects of the trip, but only one part of the entire experience.
“We ended up traveling for 20 days. For the first part of the trip we went to a few ranches and farms. Toward the end we went to more dairy farms, Angus stud farms, Boer goat operations and a place that raises 20,000 head of Moreno sheep,” says Nicodemus.
The Moreno sheep operation made a big impression on all attendees.
“We went to one station two days after the contest and learned a lot about wool production and just how in-depth you can take it. This guy’s entire flock was on a computer system. Each ewe had her own micron measurements in a database, in addition to every lamb she had. I don’t know much about wool production, but I’ve never seen anything like that over here” says Allnutt.
“The same guy runs 1,700 cattle on the side of his sheep operation,” adds Clay.
“Most of his wool goes into the Italian market and is used to make Armani suits,” notes Nicodemus.
Learning about the differences in agriculture production practices between Australia and the U.S. was another experience the team enjoyed.
“It’s interesting to see the differences within the beef industry alone. They are in a drought and can’t really grow corn, so they have to do what they can in terms of meat quality with those limiting factors,” says Clay. “They will slaughter animals a couple months, or more, earlier than we do. We feed them out on corn, but they don’t have that luxury, so they keep consistency in their product by slaughtering earlier. That keeps the meat brighter with more eye appeal.”
“They will eat meat of a lower quality grade and sacrifice flavor to ensure there is less fat. It’s an aspect of consumer appeal, which is a big deal there,” says Clay.
“We could probably learn some things from their agriculture practices, and they could learn from us as well,” comments Allnutt.
Nicodemus notes that, historically, the U.S. teams have taken a “winning and winning alone” approach to the trip.
“It didn’t sound like previous U.S. teams gained much comradery with businesses and individuals. Our team formed several relationships with other teams, organizations and businesses. I feel that long-term that will be very beneficial to our team members,” he says.
“I knew the first day it was going to be a great time. We had Murdoch University as our host school and there were about 20 of us total. They definitely showed us some of the better sides of Australian humor and took us around to some cool operations,” notes Clay.
“I thoroughly enjoyed Australia and it was definitely an opportunity of a lifetime and we all learned a lot. There’s so much to tell about it, someone could probably write a book,” adds Allnutt.
“It was a unique opportunity and we were really impressed with the experience,” says Nicodemus.