The University of Illinois meat animal evaluation judging team was named national champion at this year's National Meat Animal Evaluation Contest held March 14-16 at Lincoln, Nebraska.
"In the contest, students ranked beef, swine, and sheep for market and breeding purposes and evaluated cuts of meat for muscling and marbling. But they also displayed decision-making skills, communicated their reasoning to the judges, and defended their positions. Those are good skills to have no matter what career you go into," said Dan Shike, an assistant professor of animal sciences and team coach.
In a separate communications division, students are given a current issue or topic and an hour to create a 10-minute presentation or skit that addresses the question from the producer, packer, retail, and consumer standpoints.
"Throughout the school year, preparation is intense and requires a great sacrifice of time and energy, so team members also develop time management skills," he said.
Members of the national championship team were Seth Gallivan, Ivesdale; Jordan Rauch, Montrose; Dillon Garver, Paris; Bailey Edenburn, Penfield; Ashley Kloth, Ellis Grove; Amy Sneed, Bluford; Amanda Kazmierczak, Frankfort; and Jennifer Ewing, Rushville. The team was coached by Shike and graduate students Daniel Clark and Chris Cassady.
The U of I also took second place in the breeding animal, market animal, and meats divisions, and third place in the communications division.
Individual winners are Jordan Rauch, second place; Bailey Edenburn, fifth place; Jennifer Ewing, sixth place; Seth Gallivan, 12th place; and Laura Sutter, 15th place.
Having five students place in the top 15 against teams from major land-grant universities from Florida to Colorado is very impressive, Shike said.
"Participation on judging teams is experiential learning at its best," Shike added. "Judging really gets students out of the classroom, and they learn by doing."