Texas A&M Meat Judges Team Wins National Title

The Texas A&M University Meat Judging Team won the 2022 national championship at the American Meat Science Association’s (AMSA) International Intercollegiate Meat Judging Contest on November 13 in Dakota City, Nebraska.

2022 meat judging team and coaches - 10 women and two men - pose with awards
Texas A&M’s 2022 National Meat Judging Team Champion at the AMSA International Intercollegiate Meat Judging Contest in Dakota City. (Photo by Texas A&M AgriLife)

The team members, all students in the Department of Animal Sciences of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, took first place in beef grading, whole beef, lamb and pork grading, specifications and rankings. The team placed second in the grounds and beef judging to win the national title.

Additionally, four students placed individually in the top 10, with three members being named to the AMSA All-American Teams. The All-American teams will be selected based on the students’ individual competitive results throughout the 2022 meat judging season combined with their academic performance. Each team consists of four students selected from the more than 90 students participating in the intercollegiate meat grading nationwide.

Texas A&M individuals rise to the top

Gage Walsh ’24, Sante Fe, was a high individual; Nathan Barrett ’24, Normangee, placed second overall; Alexandra Smith ’24, Flower Mound, placed fifth; and Bailey Lamb ’24, Huntsville, finished sixth. Walsh and Barrett were named to the All-American First Team and Smith was named to the All-American Second Team.

Barrett was also the team recipient of the Rachel Hamilton Spirit Award, an award chosen by each team to honor a team member who they believe is the spirit of the team and embodies the spirit of meat grading at Texas A&M.

“The department is very proud of these students and their coaches for this amazing accomplishment,” said Andy Herring, Ph.D., interim director of the Department of Animal Sciences. “We must remember that students juggle all their academic duties in addition to their long hours practicing and traveling to competitions throughout the year. That they are able to do this is very impressive.”

“Coach Kaylee Greiner and I are proud of our great students”, said Jennifer Wyle, Meat Evaluation Team Coordinator, Department of Animal Science. The depth and consistency across the team has been critical to our success. At every competition, not only did the students consistently place in the top 10, but we always had a great performance from the alternates in the competition.”

The meat evaluation team consists of 10 students. At each of the competitions, the coach selects four students to ‘mark’ or represent the team score. The remaining six students compete as alternates and compete as individuals. According to Wyle, the marking team has won five of the eight competitions the team has competed in over the year.

Team members who represented the department in the alternative part of the national competition placed as follows:
– Molly Hicks ’24, Joshua, first.
– Cassie Brown ’24, College Station, second.
– Avery Foster ’24, Cedar Park, sixth.
– Rylie Philipello ’23, Bryan, seventh.
– Abby Tack ’23, Humble, placed 10th.
– Morgan McKinzie”, Stephenville, 19.

The team is coached by Kaylee Greiner, Christianberg, Virginia, a graduate student in the department.

Team participation provides students with experiential learning opportunities and career development

The 2022 Meat Grading Team has evolved from students from the Fall 2021 session of ANSC 317, Meat Selection, Evaluation and Grading. They began training Saturdays at the Rosenthal Meat Science and Technology Center in September of that year and captured their first championship of the year in January in Greeley, Colorado at the National Western Stock Show.

a team photo with 9 women and 2 men outside with the words
Texas A&M’s Meat Judging Team poses in LeMars, Iowa, the ice cream capital of the world, while traveling for practice and competition. (Photo by Texas A&M AgriLife)

The team competed in eight competitions before the national competition and traveled thousands of kilometers across the country. They spend nearly 70 nights away practicing and preparing, not just for competition, but to develop skills that can help them in their future careers, Wyle said.

“They have spent countless hours grading beef in beef processing plants, writing rationales, studying specifications and teaching classes to make it to this point,” she said.

“Our assessment teams provide our students with high-impact learning experiences, and their reputation serves as a key selection criterion for prospective students,” said Herring.

While the majority of students on the Animal Science Department’s competitive teams are majors, this is not a requirement for participation. Brown is studying Agricultural Economics and Lamb is studying Agricultural Economics, both in the Department of Agricultural Economics, and Hicks is studying Agricultural Science in the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications. The rest of the students on the meat grading team are majors in animal science. Regardless of their major and department affiliation, the students on the team all share a passion and interest in the meat science industry.

The meat grading program at Texas A&M is one of the opportunities available to the department to recruit and train future leaders in the meat science industry. According to the AMSA website, “Meat grading is much more than just determining the quality and lean meat yield of a carcass or wholesale cut; The program serves as a training tool to develop young leaders in the meat and livestock industry.”