MUSCATINE, Iowa–This year, the contests Muscatine FFA competes in will look significantly different than in years past in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, students showed they can persevere and adapt at the virtual meats judging state competition, their first of the year. Through effort and creative thinking, the team’s three members distinguished themselves, earning fourth place out of 23 teams.
For students who have participated in meats judging before, the contest felt starkly different than it did previously. “It was a lot more difficult than when you do it in person,” said Bob Carver, a sophomore who earned second place individually. Rather than evaluating carcasses for yield and grade, and identifying the cut and grade of different pieces of meat in person, students based their judgement on a series of photos.
“I felt that it was interesting because we weren’t with the other schools and we couldn’t see what they were doing and we could only see the pictures from one side,” added senior Brooke Horton.
Even so, the students felt pleased with their accomplishments. “It feels pretty good” said Bob, reflecting on his team’s fourth place. He also took pride in his own second place individual finish, which represented growth from his sixth place score a year ago. “It shows that I am improving, and that the competition is challenging,” he observed.
Despite the technical limitations the virtual contest presented, Muscatine High School agriculture teacher teacher Dave Tometich felt the students did well too. “I’m really pleased that they had an opportunity to do it,” he stated. He also valued that students still had a chance to practice the real life skills the meats judging competition tests. “Whether it’s the math portion or the ID portion, it shows that these are real life skills for everybody,” he emphasized.
Students also enjoyed getting to help each other prepare for the competition and pass the skills they have learned over the years to younger members. “If you have a peer teaching you, it’s easier than if you have a teacher doing it,” stated Brooke. She especially appreciated working on memorization skills, which have helped her retain information for other classes and activities.
Over the next several weeks, Muscatine FFA members will participate in a number of virtual and social distanced events, though no national FFA contests will take place this year. On Saturday, Oct. 3 (after this newspaper went to press) students competed in the virtual state poultry competition. This week, students will take part in a socially distanced outdoor state soil judging contest as well. Muscatine FFA plans to announce more contest dates as they become available.