Dairy and meat judging teams take the highest honors in ’09

Emma Dejong

Emma Dejong

In the 88 years the National Collegiate Dairy Products Evaluation Contest has been held, this is the first year a team has taken the top three places in the undergraduate division. SDSU’s dairy products judging team earned that title.

“It was awesome for us to go up there, receiving award after award,” said participant Nicole Stevens, a junior double majoring in agricultural communications and dairy manufacturing. “It was pretty unreal.”

Although the team did practice every day in preparation for the national event, they did not have a regional contest to attend due to the recession. This left them feeling less prepared than in past years, making their success even more rewarding.

The competition was held in Glenview, Ill. Sixteen teams attended, each made up of three undergraduate students and one or two graduate students. Each person judged eight samples of six different products: 2 percent milk, cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, vanilla ice cream, butter and strawberry yogurt.

“The things we look at are the flavor, body and texture and appearance and color,” said Bob Baer, coach of the dairy products judging team.

Students who participate in this acquire skills that will always be useful, Stevens said.

“We can look at the different dairy products and know what quality really is and what, as consumers, we should be looking at,” she said.

Like the dairy products judging team, SDSU’s meat judging team is having a successful season.

On Nov. 15, at the Cargill Meat Solutions High Plains Contest in Plainview, Texas, they took first place. Extension meats specialist Keith Underwood, the team’s adviser, said this was a huge accomplishment.

“This is the first time that SDSU has won that particular contest, so we were very excited about that,” Underwood said. “Our students did very well.”

Both the dairy and the meat judging teams prepare for their competitions throughout the entire year, with classes in the spring and practices both in the spring and fall.

“It’s basically a part of my life,” Baer said. “It’s in my blood. I think about the competitions all year long.”

Being on the dairy products judging team is more than just an extra activity, Stevens said. The skills students take away from competing on these teams often surprise them.

“I found out that my taste and sense of smell was better than I expected,” Stevens said.

Students who polish these skills find them valuable beyond college.

“I think it’s a great experience for undergraduate students,” Underwood said. “It helps decision-making skills; it builds confidence.”