Judging team member attains perfection

Crystal Mohrhauser

Crystal Mohrhauser

No. 42 was the lucky number attached to Justin Fruechte’s frock during the Eastern Intercollegiate Meats Judging Contest held in Wyalusing, Penn. The contest marked the first meats judging contest of the semester for the SDSU Meats Judging Team.

Although Fruechte, a junior animal science major, doesn’t believe in superstitions, he does believe that perfection is a hard accomplishment to achieve.

Yet, he earned a perfect 500 placings score, which sealed his top-individual-overall win at the Eastern.

“We were pretty surprised. It’s pretty rare,” said Jonathon Spronk, an animal science graduate student who coaches the 2005 team. “This is the first time in SDSU history that it’s ever happened.”

Fruechte, who grew up with two brothers on a diversified grain and livestock farm, started livestock judging at an early age. His success in that arena drove him to pursue judging on a collegiate level.

“I had to take an introduction class to be eligible to judge in the fall and spring,” said Fruechte, who is also active in Alpha Gamma Rho, Block and Bridle, Little International and Ag-Bio Ambassadors.

At the end of their one-year team eligibility, Fruechte and his five teammates will have competed in six intercollegiate meats-judging contests.

“(In a contest), contestants rank four cuts of beef, pork and lamb. They could be wholesale cuts or carcasses.” said Spronk, who judged as an undergraduate on the 2002 team. In addition to placings, contestants must write five sets of reasons on why they placed the classes that particular way. They also must grade 15 head of beef carcasses for yield and quality. Participants then judge 10 cuts of specifications and determine if a cut is acceptable or has defects based upon guidelines set by the Institutional Meat Purchase Specifications (IMPS).

Since the end of August, the team has dedicated several hundreds of hours preparing for contests. The team practices three times a week and frequently travels to three area packing plants to see a wide array of specimens. En route to each contest, they also stop at various plants and universities to sharpen their skills immediately prior to competing against several other aggressive universities.

“There are typically 100 contestants from 16 teams. We’re a smaller school, yet we typically compete well against teams such as Texas Tech, Texas A & M, Kansas State, Iowa State, University of Illinois and Oklahoma State.” said Spronk.

While at these contests, the team, consisting of Fruechte, Megan Bishop, Rio, Wis., Ben Hollingshead, Ogden, Iowa., Corey Minor, Brookings, Dustin Mohrhauser, Hartford, and Shaun Quissell, Sherman have performed extremely well. At the last three contests, at least three of the four designated team members have placed in the top 10 individually. The teams ultimate goal is to earn first place at the national contest, which is held at the IBP packing plant in Dakota City, Neb. on Nov. 13. The 1984 SDSU meats judging team was the last team to receive the first place honor.

“Our coach pushes us a lot, but when you have five strong teammates, you’re not guaranteed a spot on the team. You have to work at it all the time,” said Fruechte.

Despite the competitive nature of the team, a certain camaraderie grows over the amount of time spent traveling.

“You have to be able to travel with six others for hours,”said Fruechte, who credits meats judging with his ability to make decisions, focus and improve his time-management and writing skills. “You gain qualities that you can’t gain in class.”

“We work on team building, community exposure to the meat industry, and networking with respective employers,” said Spronk.

“(Judging) shows what they know and what they can do. It’s a great application.”

With the constant interaction with the industry, Fruechte hopes to continue his experience through an internship this summer.

“It’s a big recruiting tool and really helps with networking in the industry,” said Fruechte.

For more information about joining the meats judging team, please contact Duane Wulf, meat science associate professor, at 605-688-5451 or at [email protected].

#1.884901:2485982413.jpg:justinfruechte_cm.jpg:Fruechte examines a piece of meat. Members of the judging team practice long hours to perfect their judging skills.:Crystal Mohrhauser