By McCall Linke, UW Institutional Communications intern
LARAMIE — U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis, seven University of Wyoming students and a T-bone steak have something in common: meat judging.
The UW meat judging team has completed its final competition of the year to wrap up one of the most successful seasons in UW history. (Lummis was a member of the team when she was an undergraduate student at UW.)
Last fall, UW won the Eastern National (Wyalusing, Pa.), UW’s first win since 2000. This year, the team won the Iowa State Invitational, Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and, for the second year in a row, the Eastern National.
The meat judging team travels throughout the United States to assess carcass or primal cuts. Values are based on current industry standards and the students must determine the U.S. Department of Agriculture quality and yield grades.
“It also is very heartening to see young folks dedicate themselves so fervently to a cause bigger than themselves,” says Zebadiah Gray, the meat judging team coach and a Ph.D. candidate in animal science. Originally from Toledo, Iowa, he has coached the team since the 2011 fall semester.
The 2014 team members are Scott Anderson from McKinnon (southern Sweetwater County); Mackenzie Fuller from Wright; John Lacey from Highlands Ranch, Colo.; Brandt Mortensen from Sanford, Colo.; Jennifer Sauers from Big Springs, Neb.; Cassidy Smith from Carpenter; and Laura Strohecker from Casper.
“I have learned to appreciate each individual’s attributes, and it is amazing to watch a group of individuals grow into a team,” Gray says.
At the recent International in Dakota City, Neb., the team won overall sixth place; third place in specifications; and fourth place in lamb judging. Mortensen was sixth high individual and named to the American Meat Science Association All-America first team. Smith was seventh high individual; Lacey placed seventh high individual in the alternates contest; Sauers was 10th high individual in the alternates contest; and Anderson was the highest individual in specifications.
The judging team is structured for UW students to take the introduction to meat judging class in the fall semester. Participating in the class does not require that a student judges competitively, Gray says. The course schedule is much like any other class — students meet twice a week. No prior experience is required to participate in the class, Gray adds.
When the class concludes, students must decide if they want to judge competitively. Once a student starts judging, he or she has one calendar year of eligibility. In a given year, the team will travel approximately 20,000 miles across 11 states, while visiting seven universities and touring numerous companies. The team practices regularly and rigorously, Gray says.
The team competes in eight contests each year: the National Western Stock Show (Denver, Colo.); Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo (Fort Worth, Texas); Iowa State Invitational (Ames, Iowa); Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo (Houston, Texas); Eastern National American Royal (Omaha, Neb.); Cargill High Plains (Friona, Texas); and the International (Dakota City, Neb.)