Tarleton State University recently claimed the national championship at the Cargill Meat Solutions Hi-Plains Meat Judging Contest held in Plainview, Texas. The championship concluded an unprecedented season for the team, which went undefeated, and included four of the team members being chosen for the American Meat Science Association's prestigious All-American teams.

Team members Brady Pendleton, Jason Gaston, Danielle LaVista, Amanda Barmore, Landi Woolley and Brandt Edwards claimed the A-Division National Championship, competing against teams from across the nation. The team traveled to six collegiate contests, beginning with the Beef Empire Days contest in Garden City, Kan. and ending with the national competition in Plainview.

Team coaches were Casey Mabry, department of Animal Science graduate assistant, and Randy Hines, interim Animal Science department head. Both attribute the team's success to their dedication to practice and their competitive nature.

“It's very unique for a team to go undefeated through an entire judging season because there are so many variables that must be overcome before that can happen,” Mabry said. “This team's competition with each other and their drive to succeed as a team is what made them so successful.”

Collegiate meat judging competitions are organized and supported in part by the American Meat Science Association, which was established as a society to implement a medium for various interests in meat, ranging from commercial, academic, government and consumer-driven interests. The AMSA chooses eight individuals for two All-American teams, based on a culmination of the students' grade point averages and performances in intercollegiate meat judging contests.

Tarleton's team further validated their talent with four of their six team members being chosen as All-American team members, including Woolley, LaVista, and Edwards, who were chosen for the first team, and Gaston, who was chosen for the second team. Team members maintained an impressive 3.73 average GPA, which did not come easy considering they traveled to various cities for competitions, including Denver, Colo., Houston, and Emporia, Kan.

“Although the travel interrupted our classes, I feel like the competition heightened our determination to maintain good grades,” team member Danielle LaVista said. “This level of activity gives us something to be proud of and stimulates our overall achievement level.”

Meat judging competitors evaluate various cuts of meat in a daylong contest that is awarded in six different divisions including, beef, lamb, and pork judging, total beef, questions, and overall placing. The cuts and carcasses of meat are visually evaluated on characteristics such as meat color, amount of fat content within muscle, and USDA quality designations.

Contestants also complete 50 questions on various classes, which allow the opportunity to explain the placing they made. The questions are broken into a series of 10 questions on five different classes, adding to the level of difficulty.