At last weekend’s state FFA Judging Career Development Events at Texas A&M, the MHS poultry team placed 16th out of 50, and the meats team placed 32nd out of 50. Taken individually, MHS junior Sarah White placed 16th out of 200 in poultry.
This was the 28th time in 29 years that both teams competed at the state level. Both teams placed second in the area competition earlier this spring.
“Well, we work hard, and we lay out the goals at the beginning of the year, and we try to encourage as many students as possible to participate,” MHS FFA teacher Jim Harris said as he explained how he has been able to have meat and poultry teams compete at state every year for almost three decades.
As the end of the school year approaches, students across the state are hitting the books and preparing for final exams. But for McMullen High School FFA students on the meat judging and poultry teams, it looked like a barbecue with a heavy emphasis on math as they prepared for state.
“The questions are real life questions so it’s good to see algebra used in real life,” senior poultry team member Jasmyn Smith said.
The meat judging team consists of seniors Joseph Stanley and Kyle Engelking, junior Kye Maddox and sophomore Trey Kuenstler. The poultry team consists of senior Jasmyn Smith, juniors Raney Hanks, Heather Gillin and White.
Unlike athletic competitions, FFA does not abide by the school size designations. This placed 1A schools such as McMullen against schools with more than 300 FFA students, according to Harris.
“I’m not the very best at every competition, but I try my best,” Maddox said.
For the poultry team, they have to determine what makes a carcass an A, B or C grade in addition to anatomy, physiology and poultry management. For the meat judging team, they have to determine quality and yield grading for beef, pork and lamb cuts of meat based on marbling and fat to lean ratio.
“I found meats interesting since day one,” Engelking said. “Now every single time we go to H-E-B and Walmart or any market, I choose all the cuts. It’s funny to walk into a meat market, and they say they have a prime rib for sale, and it’s not prime ribs.”
In CDE competitions such as meat judging and poultry, the lessons learned extend beyond the FFA classroom and the meat market. Smith said time management was the biggest lesson she learned from being on the poultry team.
“I have scholarships due this week, and I need to know when to have those done for time to get to practice,” Smith said.
According to Harris, FFA tends to attract students with competitive personalities who often succeed in multiple academic and athletic events.
“Joe is a good example. He is going to state for poetry and meats; and Heather for FFA and track. It’s not uncommon to make it in a number of competitive avenues,” Harris said. “It’s been very humbling to teach in a community where parents want their kids to be active in FFA.”
Maddox is the newest addition to the meat team and a new face at McMullen ISD. He said his previous school’s meat judging team was full, and he wasn’t allowed to switch from livestock judging.