For many years, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), through its Livestock, Poultry, and Seed Program, has been actively involved in the Intercollegiate Meat Judging Program. The program serves as a tool to recruit and train future leaders in the meat and livestock industry. Judging is a competitive event for youth through college students and it has a rich history in the U.S. meat industry – and here at AMS.
The program originally started in 1926 at the International Livestock Exposition in Chicago, and was sponsored by the National Live Stock and Meat Board. Contests have been held every year since 1926, with the exception of the war years.
Today, the American Meat Science Association (AMSA) – on behalf of U.S. livestock and meat industry – sponsors the program with six contests: National Western, Southwestern, American Royal, Eastern National, Cargill High Plains and International. In addition, several regional contests are held under local sponsorship with assistance from AMSA. Since 2015 our very own AMS International Marketing Specialist, Bucky Gwartney, has served as the AMSA President.
At the contests, AMS provides official USDA Standards of Grades data for the carcass grading and specification classes. This includes applying the official standards for quality and yield grades on 15 carcasses and defect classifications on 10 specification cuts. The USDA grade shields are highly regarded as symbols of high-quality American meat products, and through this program students learn first-hand how to accurately assign a grade to a product.
Quality grades are widely used as a language within the meat industry. Meat is evaluated by highly-skilled USDA meat graders using a subjective characteristic assessment process and electronic instruments to measure meat characteristics. These characteristics follow the official grade standards developed, maintained and interpreted by AMS.
Our outreach and participation on behalf of AMS allows us to visit with future industry leaders, and answer any questions they have about a career with USDA. Over the years, we have been able to draw from a pool of graduates that have a better understanding about the industry, making the training and placement of new hires very easy. We are proud to have employees within the AMS Livestock, Poultry, and Seed Program with such insight into the industry, and by participating in the program during college became highly qualified and connected professionals. In fact, I participated in the program while in college, as did several other leaders here at AMS.
It is a very rewarding experience for all involved. AMS can share our collective technical experiences, academic training and unique background with the students, and the students gain valuable insight into the industry.
The Intercollegiate Meat Coaches Association of the American Meat Science Association works diligently to assure the contests reflect current industry trends and consumer demands, thereby better preparing participants for livestock and meat industry careers. AMS is proud to play a part in such a rewarding experience.