Australian ICMJ team wraps up US tour as runners-up at international competition

Beef Central, 18/01/2023

THE Australian Inter-Collegiate Meat Judging team has capped-off its three-week tour of the United States red meat industry by finishing overall runners-up at the National Western Meat Judging Contest in Colorado.

The competition is one of seven American Meat Science Association meat judging competitions run each year and is held as part of the National Western Stock Show in Denver, the country’s premier livestock, rodeo and horse show.

The Australian team, made up of Austin Smith (Murdoch U), Lawton Elliott (UQ), Jasmine Wholton (C SU), Rachel Franklin (U of Sydney), and Samuel Turner (UQ), and coached by Melanie Smith and Nick van den Berg. Click on image for a larger view.

The Australian team, made up of Austin Smith (Murdoch University), Lawton Elliott (University of Queensland), Jasmine Wholton (Charles Sturt University), Rachel Franklin (University of Sydney), and Samuel Turner (UQ), and coached by Melanie Smith and Nick van den Berg, performed exceptionally well against some very high calibre competitors from more than 20 US universities.

As well as a fantastic overall team result, the Australian team also top-scored in the Lamb carcase and cuts judging section.

There were some great results in the individual categories (see details below), with Lawton Elliott taking out first Individual – Total Contest, and Sam Turner coming in third. (Full list of results below)

“The team’s results are a reflection of their dedication to master a globally recognised grading system in just ten days,” Australian ICMJ team coach Melanie Smith said.

“The USDA grading systems which underpins the US meat judging competition is well recognised by both US producers and consumers alike, but is somewhat different to Australia’s system making the achievement even more significant.”

The Australian ICMJ team also placed third overall at the Southwest Invitational Meat Judging Contest in Lubbock, Texas, earlier in the tour.

The US tour participants were chosen from a field of talented and passionate university students who took part in at the National ICMJ Conference and Competition in Wagga Wagga in July 2022.

The ICMJ US red meat industry tour provides an invaluable opportunity for students to get a close-up look at one of the largest red meat processing countries in the world and one of Australia’s major global competitors.

The tour included visits to a range of red meat operations across five states including JBS beef processing plant in Greely, Colorado, Cargill’s beef processing plant in Friona, the 100,000 head Five Rivers Kuna feedlot, Double J small stock processing facility, All American Pet Company, Global Animal Products and various retail operations.

“It was great to get an insight into the US beef industry and to understand how it compares to the Australian System,” team member Sam Turner said.

“It was particularly interesting to hear about traceability challenges, the history of lamb in the US and the geographic distribution of feedlots and farms throughout the nation.”

The team will wrap-up its official tour schedule on Saturday, with team members staying on for industry placements in various red meat operations including feedlots, ranches and seedstock production.

ICMJ’s mission is to inspire and develop the next generation of leaders in the global red meat industry and this tour is a key component of our annual program.

ICMJ’s US Tour was supported by foundation partners, Meat & Livestock Australia and the Australian Meat Processor Corporation.


Australian ICMJ team results at the National Western Meat Judging Contest:

Beef Grading:

  • 1st Individual – Sam Turner
  • 2nd Individual – Lawton Elliott
  • 2nd Overall – Team

Beef Judging:

  • 1st Individual- Lawton Elliott
  • 2nd Overall – Team

Total Beef:

  • High Individual – Lawton Elliott
  • High Team – Runners Up

Lamb Judging:

  • (Tie between 1st-4th on 150/150) – Lawton Elliott (2nd) and Austin Smith (4th).
  • 1st Overall – Team

Pork Judging:

  • 2nd Individual – Lawton Elliott
  • 2nd Overall – Team.

Total Placings:

  • 1st Individual – Tie Lawton Elliott and Austin Smith
  • 1st Overall – Team.

Total Questions:

  • 2nd Individual – Lawton Elliott
  • 2nd Overall – Team

Total Contest:

  • 1st Individual- Lawton Elliott
  • 3rd Individual- Sam Turner

Overall Team Division A

  • 1st – Washington University (3 points ahead)
  • 2nd – Australian ICMJ


Source: ICMJ




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  1. Garry Edwards, 23/01/2023

    Fantastic team and individual results. As a former Australian ICMJ team member (of 25 years ago), I know first hand how incredible this result is and how much commitment and effort it takes to learn the USA grading system in a couple of short weeks. Great to see that ICMJ is still harnessing the talent of our industry.
    Congratulations to all team members and coaches and congratulations also to John Carter and Andrew McCarron for all your efforts in the 1990’s getting this program started. You should be very proud of what it has become!

  2. Tony Fitzgerald, 20/01/2023

    What an outstanding achievement and tremendous validation of Australian young talent. Well done to all involved.

  3. David Foote, 19/01/2023

    A result we can all be proud of and a wonderful showcase result of how ICMJ program can attract enthuse and identify our leading young industry professionals – additional accolades for Lawnton winning the overall award.

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