PAULLINA—A meats judging team made up of students from South O’Brien High School in Paullina recently performed a well-done job at the national level.

O’Brien County’s Iowa state champion senior 4-H meats judging team of juniors Abigail Boardman, Jack Farquhar, Eric Mars and Aidan Rehder placed seventh overall among 12 teams in the 2019 National 4-H Meat Evaluation & Identification Contest.

South O’Brien agricultural science and industrial technology teacher Eric Kumm is the coach of the county’s 4-H meats judging teams.

“The team did a really nice job representing O’Brien County and Iowa at the national level,” Kumm said. “We are thankful for the support of the O’Brien County 4-H Foundation and Iowa State 4-H/Extension.”

The national contest was held Tuesday, Oct. 15, at Kansas State University in Manhattan as part of the American Royal Livestock Show. An awards breakfast was held Oct. 16 at the American Royal Complex in Kansas City, MO.

Other than Iowa, 4-H meats judging teams from Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Mexico, North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Texas competed in the national competition.

During this kind of event, teams delve into the science of meat by evaluating meat carcasses for quality and yield grade; identify various meat cuts and place carcasses; and identify wholesale and/or retail cuts.

In addition to finishing seventh overall as a team, Iowa placed:

  • Second in pork judging.
  • Fourth in oral reasons.
  • Fourth in total judging.
  • Seventh in retail cut judging.
  • Seventh in beef judging.
  • Eighth in retail identification.

Out of 44 individuals, Iowa’s 4-H meats judging team members recorded the following results:

  • Overall: Mars, 12th; Boardman, 15th; Farquhar, 34th and Rehder, 39th.
  • Pork judging: Boardman, second, and Farquhar, eighth.
  • Oral reasons: Boardman tied for fifth place, but finished sixth due to a tiebreaker.

“With the teams being so good at this level of competition, it comes down to really small errors, which can make a difference in team and individual placings,” Kumm said. “The only area that we really could’ve made up points was in retail ID.

“The form is different than what we use at our state contest and there are about 35 new cuts of meat to learn,” he said. “Other teams had their state contests done at the beginning of the summer, where we had ours at the end of August. We just needed a bit more time.”

The team of Boardman, Farquhar, Mars and Rehder won the 2019 Iowa 4-H State Meats Evaluation Contest on Aug. 24 in Ames to earn the right to represent Iowa at the national competition.

O’Brien County has only had one other team compete in the national 4-H meats judging contest. That happened in 2016 and the team placed 11th overall.

This year’s national competition marked the end of Mars’ and Boardman’s meats judging careers at the high school level except for competitions such as the Little International at South Dakota State University in Brookings.

“Eric and Abigail were both on state-winning FFA and 4-H teams,” Kumm said. “Rules state once they are on a state-winning team, they are done.

“They could still do any other contests like Little ‘I,’” he said. “Teams can’t advance to any national contest from Little ‘I.’

“Jack and Aidan still have the opportunity to compete in FFA if they choose to, but are done at the 4-H level since they were on the state champion 4-H team,” he said.


The South O’Brien High School FFA Chapter based in Paullina competed on Oct. 31 in the 2019 National FFA Meats Evaluation and Technology Career Development Event.

The national contest took place at the Land O’Lakes Center Inc. for Experiential Learning at Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN, during the 92nd National FFA Convention & Expo.

South O’Brien finished 14th out of 41 teams, earning a silver rating and missing out on a gold rating by one place.

“It was a great experience for the team to compete at this level — not many FFA members are able to compete in a national FFA event,” said South O’Brien FFA adviser Eric Kumm.

Thirteen teams gained gold ratings, 16 earned silver ratings and 12 finished with bronze ratings at the national FFA competition.

South O’Brien’s finish this year was the highest-ever placement by one of its meats judging team at the national FFA contest. The previous best was 15th in 2014.

“Gold, silver and bronze ratings are determined by the officials based on where they see a natural break in the team points,” Kumm said. “It generally ends up being about a third in each category.

“The time we placed 15th in 2014, the team received a gold rating — there were 43 teams that year,” he said. “This year at 14th, we were a silver.”

Individually, South O’Brien junior Bryce Rasmussen earned a gold rating, while freshmen Dante Johnson and Grant Wagner earned silver ratings.

Freshman Dain Moermond was the team’s individual alternate.

There were 123 individuals competing from the 41 teams involved in the national FFA contest.

“The team really did a nice job competing against the other top teams from each state,” Kumm said. “The turnaround time from our state contest to the national contest is pretty short.”

South O’Brien won the 2019 Iowa FFA Meats Evaluation Career Development Event on Aug. 24 in Ames.

“Most other states have their state event in the spring, where ours is in August, so a couple more weeks would’ve been helpful to fine-tune some of the components at the national contest that we don’t have at our state contest,” Kumm said.

Kumm noted there are differences between the national FFA competition and Iowa’s state FFA contest.

“The new components were challenging, but our team handled them well,” he said. “By components, I mean different judging activities.

“At nationals, they have keep/cull classes, old cow carcasses to grade/yield, questions over judging classes, identification of muscles and bones,” he said.