Picking out the Perfect Steak: The UNL Meat Judging Team Finds Success in 2022 Season

by Elizabeth Hodges

UNL Meat Judging Team
“Meat” the team: (left to right) Alexis Gerritse, Laura Reiling, Allison Everhart, Elizabeth Hodges, Nicolas Herrera (coach).
February 8, 2023

Lincoln, Neb. —Editor's note: This is a column written by Liz Hodges, an agricultural and environmental sciences communications and animal science double major in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources from Julian, Nebraska. 

When most people go to the grocery store and look at the meat counter, it all looks the same. However, after being on the meats judging team here at UNL I have found out that there is a lot that goes into picking out the perfect steak. The team found adversity through the season with changing of coaches, but still were able to adapt and make the most out of the season ahead.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Meat Judging Team saw an increase of members in the 2022 season and found success as we traveled. 

The Value of Meat Judging

“Meats Judging is a great conduit for students to understand the value of the US meat industry, and how we attribute the value to fresh meat. It creates an identity for students, regardless of their future career path, about how our industry optimizes the value of fresh meat products and create standards that are pertinent to product palatability,” says coach Nicolas Herrera.

We had a wide variety of majors on the team, and everyone had different career paths that they were headed on. Whether members were pre-vet, animal science or ag communications, everyone found their place within the meats industry.

Team member Alexis Gerritse explains the impact of meats on her career, “I will be able to use the skills I learned in meat judging such as yield or quality grading in my future career in a variety of ways such as possibly a career in meat grading.” Another member, Allison Everhart can see a career in the meat industry if she doesn’t decide to pursue veterinary science. 

Grading the Way to the Gold

Starting out at the National Western, Sarah Dilley made a statement by placing all classes perfect and receiving first place in placings. The team placed 3rd in pork judging and 2nd in overall placings.

We then had another productive run at the Iowa State Meat Judging Contest with 3rd high team in lamb judging and summer sausage judging. Also receiving 4th high team in total placings and 5th high team in pork judging. I received 5th in lamb judging and Laura Reiling was 9th overall alternate.

At the National Barrow Show in Austin, MN the team took home 3rd place in questions, and I was 4th place in questions individually. Alexis Gerritse took home 3rd place in defects. 

Memories for a Lifetime

Some of my favorite memories come from the van rides and all of the different places we stopped along the way to contests where we were able to network with others. My teammate Allison also shared this sentiment. “Some of the best memories would include the many miles spent in the vans and all the 5 a.m. jam sessions before competitions or even practice. In the cooler, I will never forget Nicolas always picking carcasses that were going to be sent down the fabrication line, and we would go and pull the shroud pins quickly before they were sent down the line.”

“Some of my favorite memories from the meat judging season include the van rides to practices, workouts, and contests. There was always something to remember from every judging trip,” Alexis reflected.

Connections for a Lifetime

If you are looking for a school activity that will give you more networks, ability to travel and aren’t afraid of spending time in a cooler, check out meats judging. It won’t only help you pick out the perfect steak, but also will teach you many life skills and leave you with memories for a lifetime. 

“I would highly recommend anyone interested in the meat industry or anything related to do meat judging. It was an amazing experience, and I was able to gain lots of connections both on the team and off the team along with developing life skills that I can use in my everyday life,” says Alexis.

Coach Nicolas reflects on the season in this way, “There's a saying "Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as they could be, and they will become as they should be".  It was my attempt to treat the student as they could be and would become the truest versions of themselves as individuals and team members. I know they accomplish much after meat judging, and proud to have contributed to their future.” Thank you to all that have supported the meat judging team this season and we as a team are looking forward to all the success that future teams will have!


This is a column written by Liz Hodges, an agricultural and environmental sciences communications and animal science double major in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources from Julian, Nebraska. Hodges was a member of the 2022 team.

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