There’s no shortage of worthy choices if you’re debating the best college football, basketball or volleyball team. But when it comes to supremacy in the meat locker, there is only one school you can call the very best: Texas Tech. Over the weekend, the Texas Tech meat judging team claimed their 14th national championship – a record that’s unmatched in the world of amateur meat evaluation.
You can be on the Texas Tech meat judging team, or you can have your weekends free, but you can’t do both.
Sherri Halsted is a senior at Tech.
“We pride ourselves on being the hardest-working team,” Halsted says.
Every Friday afternoon from January through November, she and her teammates on the meat judging team go to a nearby Cargill processing plant to practice. They’re there until about 9 pm, and then…
“The next day we start bright and early for a 4 a.m. practice, and typically those practices aren’t over until 4 p.m.,” Halsted says.
And then there are morning practices during the week, before classes start. This may sound like an arduous schedule, but it’s a proven one. On Sunday, the Red Raiders claimed their 14th national title by taking first place at the American Meat Science Association International Meat Judging Contest in Dakota City, Nebraska. Each contest is pretty much what you would expect: contestants evaluate different carcasses and cuts of meat, and the most accurate wins. There are various events to test different skills: evaluating the quality of a beef carcass, for example, ranking pork ribs, and yield grading, where you have to use mental math to estimate the amount of protein in a cut like a ribeye. It requires a lot of technical expertise, but according to Coach Mark Miller, mindset is what’s most important.
“We practice hard and then we ask them to just envision that your success will come from all your good practice,” Miller says. “And that self-doubt will just eat you alive, it’s like a cancer.”