Go meat! Teens study up

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 20, 2010

MONTEREY — For Cade Crum, beef isn’t just what’s for dinner.

When he looks at it, he sees it in terms of cut, fat content and point of origin on the animal.

“When my mom brings something home to cook, I always judge it for her,” he said. “I always tell her where it comes from on the animal and what cut it is. She gets mad.”

But these tics aren’t the result of some strange personality quirk for Crum. They were all things he learned to look for when studying for the 4-H University meat ID contest.

Crum, along with Ethan Allen and Ellen Bairnsfather, recently carried the title of state champions in the meat identification contest.

Preparation for the contest meant looking at slides of meat cuts on a computer, learning what they looked like, and then heading to local supermarkets to test their knowledge, Allen said.

“We went to the grocery store — Vidalia Market, Ferriday Market — and looked at their cuts of meat,” he said. “They took us to where they cut the meat, showed us pork loins and how they cut it.”

The contest also involves looking at beef and pork carcasses and fresh hams, and judging them for quality, Bairnsfather said.

“You have to look at (the carcass) and you can write down what you think, but you can’t use the notes you put down and you have to answer (oral) questions about the carcass,” she said.

On contest day, the team went in, identified 30 retail cuts of meat, judged the carcasses and waited for the results.

“There were some other good teams there who were talking about what they knew about meat cuts like that was going to be their profession, and I was thinking we might not have a shot if they were as good as they were saying,” Crum said. “I figured we were good, but not that good.”

But self-doubts aside, Bairnsfather said she thought the team had placed at least fourth in the contest.

“They called out third and second place, and we realized we got it,” Bairnsfather said. “We couldn’t believe we got it.”

For now, the team is taking things easy, but part of winning means they get to travel to Manhattan, Kan., in October for the national meat judging contest.

All three students were students at Monterey High School. Allen and Crum graduated this spring, and in the fall Allen will attend LSU and Crum will attend Our Lady of the Lake College. Bairnsfather will be a junior at Monterey High School.