FFA students compete in poultry judging contest

Following is a guest post from Marisa Linton. Marisa grew up showing and raising livestock, and currently lives on her family’s small farm in Mount Olive. She has shown animals at the N.C. State Fair for the past 14 years and is a past youth livestock scholarship recipient. She is an N.C. State University graduate, agricultural photographer and blogger.

Last month at the Kerr Scott Building, more than 300 youth representing 81 schools flocked to the State FFA Poultry Judging Career Development Event.

This event helps provide youth with skills and opportunities that relate to the poultry industry. North Carolina ranks second nationally in poultry and egg cash receipts. This event starts preparing students for a career in poultry if they so choose. Even if they do not end up in the poultry industry, they are developing skills that will help them throughout life.

The competition has several sections. The first is parts identification of poultry. This is followed by placement of a market broiler class. Students must analyze the class and place the chickens from first to fourth based on the broilers’ market quality. In addition, there is a class of egg-type hens for similar placement. The students then have to give a set of oral reasons regarding the market broiler class. Oral reasons require youth to organize their thoughts, defend their decision, and present that in a speech format. With just the first three areas, students have practiced critical thinking and public speaking in addition to exhibiting their poultry knowledge.

The next section of the contest requires students to evaluate boneless poultry meat products. In addition, there is also a chicken carcass quality grading section. Students evaluate the meat for qualities such as muscle development, cleanliness and color. It is certain they will never pick out poultry from the grocery store the same way again.

The final evaluation area of the contest involves the egg. Students must analyze 10 eggs for their exterior quality. Youth examine the egg for shape, defects in color, egg shell texture, cleanliness and size. They also conduct an evaluation on the interior quality of the egg, a process called candling. Eggs are held up to a light to determine the size of the air cell — the smaller the air cell, the higher quality the egg. In addition, the yolk is analyzed for blemishes and size. Interior egg quality can also be determined by simply cracking the egg open to evaluate the yolk and albumen, or white part of egg.

Finally, there is a written, multiple-choice test consisting of 25 questions. Each year, the test is about a topic within the poultry industry. This year’s topic was poultry health management and market turkey management. In past years, topics have revolved around anatomy, physiology, poultry waste management and embryology.

Students compete in teams of three or four. Honors for this year’s winning team went to Crest High School in Shelby. Second went to Wake Forest High School in Wake Forest, and third place went to Sun Valley High School in Monroe. This year’s high-scoring individual was Carlie Ogren from Crest High School. Each team was awarded team pins and a plaque, and the first-place team was awarded $500 for its chapter. The high-scoring individual was given a plaque for her accomplishments.

The Poultry Evaluation Career Development Event teaches teamwork, critical thinking skills, public speaking skills, discipline to study and, hopefully, helps develop a passion for the poultry industry. Even if students do not choose to go on in the poultry industry, they should now be able to pick out the best chicken breast, Thanksgiving turkey or carton of eggs in the grocery store.

The event was sponsored by Perdue Farms Inc., N.C. State University’s Prestage Department of Poultry Science and the N.C. State Fair Sale of Champions.

About Marisa Linton See

Marisa grew up showing and raising livestock in NC. She has shown animals at the N.C. State Fair for 15 years and is a past youth livestock scholarship recipient. She is an N.C. State University graduate, agricultural photographer and blogger.

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