Dairy team moo-ves ahead of the national competition

Jenna Petrak

Jenna PetrakReporter

After sampling and evaluating 48 dairy product samples, the SDSU Dairy Products Judging Team took home the gold once again.

The team placed first in All Products at the 2010 Collegiate Dairy Products Evaluation Contest on Nov. 12 in Decatur, Ill. This is the third consecutive year SDSU has won the national championship, which means the team gets to keep the trophy, and a new trophy will be made for the contest next year.

“It is very difficult to win [the trophies],” said dairy professor Bob Baer, who coaches the team with Lloyd Metzger. “Winning three years in a row doesn’t occur very often.”

The four students that brought home the national championship were Samantha Erickson, Rebecca Hanson, Eric McNeel and Gagan Deep.

In the competition, they evaluated six different dairy products. Students judged eight different samples of these six dairy products, making a total of 48 samples. The entire contest lasted a little over five hours, with 35 minutes available to judge eight samples of each product.

“Students have to be in good physical and mental condition when judging,” Baer said.

Along with earning the national championship, the team placed first in four products: milk, butter, ice cream and cheddar cheese.

Hanson said the dairy products are judged based on smell, taste, appearance and texture. He said contestants first smell the product. Then, they taste it to confirm the smell. Finally, they score it on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the best, while also looking for flavor defects.

McNeel said flavor defects are tastes such as bitterness or acidity. He said bitterness can give a sample a flat taste and acidity, especially high acidity, adds flavor.

“The challenge is finding the differences in the products,” McNeel said.

Baer said the event is an individual competition. The individual scores are combined and averaged to make team scores. Individually, Erickson placed first overall, and Hanson placed fourth overall. McNeel placed 12th overall and Deep, in the graduate contest, placed first overall.

“The competition is super stressful,” Erickson said.

Baer teaches his students to spit out the samples after they are done evaluating so they can assess more products. He said swallowing the sample can coat the back of your tongue and throat, and spitting out the sample allows a contestant to clean their mouth of the taste.

In preparation, the team met everyday and judged samples until the national competition.

“Sometimes it’s pretty intense, but it pays off,” Deep said.

The team takes classes with Baer for two semesters to prepare for the competition. Baer brings in samples from all over to get the team ready for the national competition.

“You become very conscious of what you eat,” McNeel said.

Erickson said the hard part is trying to get all the products judged within the time limit, but it teaches time management. She said she learned how to perform under pressure.

Deep said a contestant’s sensory ability skills improve a lot while preparing for the competition. He said great sensory skills pay off in a professional job setting.

McNeel said the competition is very much a team effort. It is important that the team works together so everyone judges the products the same way. He said it is important the team knows the products and understands the defects when scoring.

“We owe a lot of credit to our coach Dr. Baer,” Hanson said.

McNeel said Baer puts many hours into helping the team prepare for the competition. The team met everyday and judged samples until the national competition.

#1.1825149:3917792077.png:Dairy.png:The SDSU dairy team, who produce multiple dairy products, once again triumphed over the opposition at the 2010 Collegiate Dairy Products Evaluation Contest Nov. 12.:Submitted Photo