When most students think about Halloween, they imagine spooky movies, candy, dressing up, and partying. While those are all fun and awesome parts of Halloween night, I did something a little different on the night of the 31st this year. I went to the Buckeye Classic Meat Judging Contest with a couple of my friends. The Meat Science club at Ohio State puts this contest on annually, and it’s meant for students who have never judged meat before to come try it out. I had heard of meat judging before, but I had always had more experience with the live side of the animal industry as I have been an active participant in livestock judging, so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect.
While seeing animal carcasses may sound spooky to some, it actually wasn’t that bad. There’s no blood or smell, and it’s much cleaner than a barn. Before we entered the cooler, the Meat Science club president gave a presentation on what to expect. It was extremely helpful since I had no idea what I was doing!
The contest structure is fairly simple. There are five classes, and there are four products in each class. The classes we judged were whole beef carcasses, whole pork carcasses, whole lamb carcasses, beef loins, and fresh hams. The products are numbered, and the goal is to rank each product from best to worst. For example, if I thought ham number 1 was the best, I would rank it first and then follow it up with my second place and so on. There’s a point scoring system based on how well you placed each class, and the winner is the one who placed the classes the best. The meat is judged based on quality, leanness, and amount of consumable product. For example, in beef, intramuscular fat or marbling is considered good, but too much excess fat on the outside of the steak is considered waste product.
In conclusion, I tied for second as an individual, just missing first by 2 points! Not too bad for my first meats contest. I’ve raised livestock, and it was really neat to see the end product while also seeing where food like steaks, hams, and pork chops actually come from. There’s definitely a disconnect between consumers and food production. Nobody likes to think that their bacon was once a pig that had to die so that they could enjoy it. We may not want to think about it, but I believe it’s important that we all understand the hard work and sacrifices it takes to produce food. I feel that even livestock producers are often disconnected. They raise the animals, but they often never see what happens after they send their animals to market. Whether or not you agree with eating meat, I think we can all agree that people have the right to know where their food comes from and verify that it is safe, nutritious, delicious, and humanely raised. I’d recommend to anyone to go to the meat science lab at least once. It’s a great experience whether you’ve grown up raising animals for food your whole life as I had or if you’ve never set foot on a farm.