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A day at the Illinois Junior Beef Association EDGE conference

Who knew? I’m living in the millennial generation.

Anyone born between early 1980s to the early 2000s are considered the millennial generation. This is the first generation to experience digital devices and later developing into Internet.

The millennial generation makes up 25 percent of the population in the United States. This is three million more people than the Baby Boomer generation.

The millennial generation consumers are the target audience for many industries and brands, including beef. Many people have confessed to turning to the Internet for advice and tips about beef, according to the July 2014 issue of the Angus Journal.

Now that I know I am a millennial and that we millennials include more beef in our diet, a friend and I recently attended the Illinois Junior Beef Association EDGE conference that was held at the University of Illinois (UI).

There were many different PowerPoint workshops for those attending. Topics ranged from preparing for college, how to be a good public speaker, snapping great photos or using social media correctly.

We even got to experience the UI meat lab as part of our different workshops that were offered. In the meat lab, we were shown a few different aspects about the beef carcass. Everyone got to see and learn about the different parts of a beef rump or the back quarter of a beef carcass. The different sections were shown to us, and in some ways, some of the parts were closely related to functions of human bones and muscles.

Next we got to evaluate a hanging beef carcass. When evaluating a beef carcass, there are many areas to look at. There is the ribeye area, which is measured at the 12th rib of the carcass. The ribeye area is expressed in total square inches. The larger the square inch, the better the muscular development.

Another area to evaluate on the carcass is the fat thickness, which is the amount of fat layered on the outside of a carcass. Finally there is the kidney, pelvic and heart fat to consider; these are deposits of fat accumulated in the body cavity. Kidney, pelvic and heart fat are considered a percent of carcass weight, and this percent range is anywhere from 1 to 8 percent. All the information found in each of these measurements go into a formula and result in the yield grade for cutability.

We also learned about the different grade choices. There are four basic grades — prime, choice, select and standard. Most USDA meat are choice or select grades. There are very few animals that are butchered for grade prime, and that meat is found in restaurants and high-cost meat counters.

The final workshop for the EDGE conference was to the UI beef research farm. At the farm, we got to see the many types of research done. Everyone learned about the types of feed that can be fed to animals. When we were there, the beef was being fed corn, silage, chopped hay or distillers dry grain. Silage is the whole corn plant chopped up, while distillers is what remains after the corn is cooked down for ethanol.

Second stop of the beef farm was the nutritional barn. At this barn, animals are contained in a temperature controlled room. Each animal is placed in their own stall with their own feed bunk and water supply. The final stop on the tour was to one of the barns that contains just a part of their 900-head of feeder cattle. In this barn, we got to experience how an electronic ear tag could tell so much. Each cow is given an ID with an electronic ear tag to track the feed intake of each cow. A small feed bunk is set up to record the pounds each cow eats by reading the electronic tag of the cow and recording the feed consumed by that cow. Once the feed bunk has the data collected, it is sent to a computer that updates every hour. I found the meat lab and the research farm part of the conference to be very interesting, as I would like a career in animal science.

This was Illinois Junior Beef Association’s first try at a one day youth conference, and I found it worthwhile and cool to be on a college campus.

On another note, I was able to attend the 2014 Illinois FFA convention, along with other members from the LaMoille FFA Chapter. Planting Your Potential was the theme, and as soon as you walked into the Prairie Capital Convention Center in Springfield, you could feel the excitement and enthusiasm that each FFA member had.

For those of you who will enter into high school and don’t know where your career is going yet, I would suggest becoming an active member in the school’s FFA organization. FFA is one of the few programs that is highly respected and a continued tradition here in Illinois.

To my fellow millennial generation, eat more beef.

Kaitlyn Hildebrand will be a junior at LaMoille High School and resides on her family cattle/corn operation in Ohio.

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