Just one taste, or sometimes just one look, is all it takes for a consumer to judge the meat on their plate for fat content, tenderness and flavor. But only a trained eye can judge a living, breathing animal and determine whether it will make a delicious, or not-so-great, dinner.
Hannah Frobose, a recent alumna of Butler Community College, is a self-proclaimed “very proud meat eater” and livestock judge from Pemberville, Ohio, who is transferring to Kansas State University this fall to study food science.
Frobose was one of 15 students — five from Butler Community College — who were named All-Americans in livestock judging.
Frobose also was one of eight on Butler’s sophomore livestock judging team, which was named Team of the Year by the Junior College Coaches Association.
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“It’s an academic sport for those of us in the agricultural world,” Frobose said.
The competition consists of placing four-animal classes of cattle, hogs, sheep or goats and then defending their placement to a professional in the agricultural industry. The scores are then tallied to determine individual and team champions.
But it’s not just for fun, she said. It’s about learning how to determine what animals will best benefit livestock producers and consumers, as well as what will bring in the most profits for producers.
“We evaluate which livestock are going to be the best for meat or for breeding purposes,” Frobose said. “It’s how we keep livestock evolving in any kind of species.”
Butler Community College’s Livestock Judging Team spent nearly 30 hours a week this academic year practicing livestock judging and giving reasons. It spent all but four weekends this school year traveling over 40,000 miles across the state and nation for livestock judging competitions.
While Frobose and her team learned the ins and outs of grading livestock, she said some of the most valuable knowledge she gained was not about agriculture at all.
She said livestock judging taught her how to confidently make and defend her decisions, how to speak publicly and how to build a network. She hopes to use those skills as an advocate for the industry in an attempt to eliminate the disconnect between producers and consumers.
Also named All-Americans at Butler were P.D. Miller, Haley Stark, Payton Dahmer and Whitney Whitaker. For a student to be named an All-American, the points from livestock judging competitions were tallied together and entered into a formula along with GPA.
Miller said the team atmosphere pushed his success to the next level.
“I’ve never been a part of a team of people that got along so well,” he said. “We knew we could call each other in a time of need and someone would be there to help in two minutes.”
Miller’s goal since he was 10 years old was to be an All-American livestock judge.
“To finally get the recognition and saying to myself, ‘You are good enough; you made it,’ was just an unbelievable feeling,” he said.
Leading the team of 15 students was head coach Marcus Arnold, who coached his fourth and last season at Butler. Arnold and assistant coach Taylor Frank were named Coaches of the Year. Arnold has accepted a job with Zoetis, a producer of medicine and vaccinations for animals.
“It is an honor to be named a Coach of the Year, but it’s secondary to what the team was doing,” Arnold said. “It’s a byproduct of their performance, honestly.”