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Arkansas 4-H members compete at National 4-H Poultry and Egg Conference in Louisville


Fast Facts:

4-H members competed in poultry judging, avian bowl, egg chef challenge, turkey and chicken barbecue
Two members won fifth place in turkey barbecue, egg chef challenge
Conference takes place during North American International Livestock Exposition at Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Ten Arkansas 4-H members put their poultry knowledge and cooking skills to the test at the National 4-H Poultry and Egg Conference in Louisville, Kentucky, during the North American International Livestock Exposition at the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center Nov. 15-16.
Andrew Bolton, extension instructor for poultry science and youth programs, said the conference provided important opportunities for competition and connection.
“Being new in my position, it was great to see all the different contests that we can take our kids to on a national level and getting to interact with some of my peers from other universities across the nation,” Bolton said. “I think all of our kids had some really great opportunities to compete, but they also got to go on tours and meet new people.”
The conference is the highest level that 4-H members competing in poultry and egg contests can reach. Students start competing at the county level, then winners advance to the district level, and those winners compete at the Poultry Federation Festival held in Rogers, Arkansas, to qualify for the national level.
“It’s really the culmination and final step of competition,” Bolton said.
Arkansas 4-H members’ registration and hotel fees were sponsored by the Poultry Federation.
In the Avian Bowl, students are quizzed on their knowledge of several species of poultry, food safety, physiology, nutrition and more. Poultry Judging teams consist of three or four students who compete individually, but their scores are counted together.
“They go around through different stations and judge live birds, they judge ready-to-cook carcasses, they judge the quality of eggs both interior and exterior, and they judge further processed parts, like nuggets, patties and wings,” Bolton said. “They really judge the entirety of the poultry industry in that window.”
Bolton said competitors’ scores are based on their ability to identify the “best” specimen among live birds — and rank the birds accordingly — and on their ability to identify defects and damage in carcasses, eggs and processed parts.
“They’re looking at these birds and products and assessing as if they were on the assembly line or working as an inspector who grades for those things,” Bolton said.
Blakley Thompson of Clark County won fifth place in the Turkey Barbecue Contest, and Anna Kate McKinnon of Howard County won fifth place in the Egg Chef Challenge.
Exciting opportunities
Bolton said that in addition to competition, the conference is a great opportunity for 4-H members to broaden their horizons.
“I’m a big proponent of kids getting new experiences,” Bolton said. “If some of these poultry judges or barbecue cookers have never had the opportunity to travel or leave the state, or sometimes even leave their county, this is an amazing chance to go and see new things.”
This year, students toured Churchill Downs in Louisville, the horse racing complex where the Kentucky Derby takes place, as well as the Louisville Slugger Museum.
“Our 4-H’ers get to interact with a lot of different kids from across the nation,” Bolton said. “There are kids who fly in from California, New York, Mississippi, Alabama, the Carolinas and all over, so it’s a great gathering of people.”

Bolton added that a goal of the conference and contests is to interest participants in pursuing careers in the poultry industry.
“For us, this hopefully continues to build interest in these youth in our poultry industry,” he said. “I think we want to build interest in agriculture regardless, but we definitely want to skew that just a bit in the poultry direction.”
Bolton said he’s seen from personal experience how participating in 4-H can lead to a career in the agriculture industry.
“I would say, and I’ve lived this, that 4-H is a gateway to get into such a great industry,” he said. “Whether you’re in the poultry industry or the agriculture industry, there are so many opportunities, both schooling-wise and career-wise. We have a great poultry department at the University of Arkansas, and there’s tons of scholarships available through being a poultry science major, contests like this, and other organizations.”
The Arkansas 4-H members who competed in the National 4-H Poultry and Egg Conference are:
Avian Bowl Team: Madison County
Cadence Almas
Andrew Hendricks
Keira Keck
Vallie Yancey
Coaches: Caramie Edwards and Darrin Henderson
Poultry Judging Team: Carroll County
Hunter Kelley
Jason McCullough
Duncan Patterson
Coaches: Lisa Patterson, Torrie Smith
Chicken Barbecue contestant: Jackson Russell, Izard County
Turkey Barbecue contestant: Blakley Thompson, Clark County, with coach Cindy Ham — 5th Place
Egg Chef Challenge contestant: Anna Kate McKinnon, Howard County, with coach Samantha Horn — 5th Place
4-H is a youth development program operated by the Cooperative Extension Service, part of the Division of Agriculture. The program teaches participants life skills through the “learn by doing” model. Program participants gain knowledge through non-formal, science-based, experiential education activities.