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Posted on Jun 6, 2016

No veggie burgers for this group

It’s really easy, they say. Heck, they insist, there’s no trick to it.
Even after spending a pile of hours learning the ins and outs of the meat industry – the good parts, the bad parts and the ugly parts – the members of the Quincy FFA Meats team remain steadfast in their fondness for a good ol’ cheeseburger and all things meat.
“Food is food,” said Brendan Van Diest, one of the four newcomers to the six-person team, which finished sixth at the FFA state competition in Pullman in early May.
The team so loves being carnivore that using a word that sounds like “meat” in a sentence makes the group giggle. Asked if any of the team members had vegetarian friends, Tanner Wallace quipped, “No. We stay away from those people. They are missing out.”
Wallace and Lacey Gillmore are the two elders in the group, having competed on a meats team in years past. Last year, Walllace and Gillmore’s team placed seventh, as members of a squad with more experience than this one.
“This year we only have two (experienced members),” said Tanner, son of Mike Wallace, ag teacher and an FFA advisor at Quincy High School. “And we still got sixth – better than the year before – so it’s an improvement, I think.”
Priscilla Castillo, one of the newcomers, said that Mike Wallace told her there was a chance the team would do well this year.
“I was excited to work hard for that,” Castillo said.
Some of the team members confess to not knowing anything about meats before they join the team, so the sixth-place finish at state feels extra good.
“It was really weird at first, getting used to looking at meat all the time,” said Eli Westra, another first-timer. “It was fun, though.”
Gillmore and Tanner also have cattle at home, so all the knowledge gleaned from competition serves them well outside the classroom, too.
“You start looking at what part of your animal is growing and you know what the meat is going to look like,” Gillmore said.
The competition is tough, with other teams bringing players who participate only on the meats team, so they have more time to focus on their topics, said Gillmore, who was a part of two teams that participated at state.
One part of the competition requires identification of dozens of meat cuts on a table. And not just the name, but the species (beef, pork or lamb), the primal area (ribs, brisket, loins, etc.), the cut (T-bone steak, for example) and how you cook it (dry, moist, dry-moist).
The latter is the toughest one, team member Brad Simmons said.
“You don’t know exactly what it is unless you look at each cut, and then you have to memorize each cut and then you have to memorize the cookery on top of that,” he said.
Eating a cheeseburger may have no trick to it, but at the meats competition in Pullman, trickery abounds, the team agreed.
“In some meat cuts, the only difference between one and another is one little, tiny muscle,” Tanner said. “And so you have to look and identify or make sure that that meat has the muscle.”
Another trick involves switching the date on the requirements a hamburger formulation has to meet. The organizers will put the right date but the wrong year, just to see who forgets to check the year.
It is during this explanation that Tanner and company break out in giggles.
Confused, a visitor asks the group what’s up.
“What date you have to meet,” Tanner whispers.


— By Sebastian Moraga,

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