Student team wins first national meat judging contest in over 50 years

Group photo of WSU's meat judging team.
The WSU meat judging team after their win in Denver.

Until recently, Washington State University’s meat judging team hadn’t won a contest since 1969. WSU hadn’t had a squad since the early 1970s, to be fair.

The reconstituted team won the first contest they entered, taking the Champion Team Overall, A-Division Title at the National Western Stock Show in Denver on Jan. 15. The team also claimed individual championship honors across multiple divisions, including beef grading, pork judging, beef judging, overall beef, and questions. 

“We held a recruiting barbecue dinner and posted flyers around campus last fall,” said Blake Foraker, a meat scientist in WSU’s Department of Animal Sciences and team coach. “This is a good group of competitors, with as strong a work ethic as I’ve ever coached. I thought we had a good enough group to win, and the students had the same expectation.”

Foraker arrived at WSU in July 2022 after completing his PhD at Texas Tech University, where he helped coach the meat animal evaluation teams to one national and two reserve national championships.

Meat judging tests students’ ability to evaluate carcasses and cuts of beef, pork, and lamb for their grade, ranking, and value in the meat industry. Students can spend 12 to 15 hours a day preparing for a contest, Foraker said.

“They spend a huge amount of time in 34º F coolers looking at cuts of meat, working to get better,” he said. “It’s an impressive commitment that will help them later in their career, whether they enter the livestock industry, pursue law school, or any other field.”

WSU’s goal is to win this spring’s two remaining contests, both in Texas, to prepare for the National Meat Animal Evaluation Contest at the end of March.

The team is made up of 11 members from a variety of majors, including animal sciences, agricultural education, and agricultural economics.

In addition to the team win in Denver, several individuals placed very highly in the contest. Bailey Sherley, a junior agricultural and food business economics major, placed second overall, winning the lamb judging, pork judging, and questions divisions. Teammates Mackenzie Shattuck and Joseph Koenig also finished in the top 10 overall.

While only four members make up the team’s score, alternates compete in their own division. An additional four WSU students placed in the top 10 of the alternates division.

The team travels to Texas to compete at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo next week.

The team members are:

  • Alynn Harder, Hooper, Wash.
  • Ashley Gunning, Davenport, Wash.
  • Bailey Sherley, Ellensburg, Wash.
  • Grace Lieuallen, Issaquah, Wash.
  • Joseph Koenig, Tulare, Calif.
  • Kayla Richardson, Ravensdale, Wash.
  • Kenan Kontaratos, Maple Valley, Wash.
  • Lani Skyles, Outlook, Wash.
  • Lauren Ziegler, Toppenish, Wash.
  • Mackenzie Shattuck, Pasco, Wash.
  • Makenzie Zessin, Touchet, Wash.

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