Winter Cattle Journal 2019: Nebraska Symposium gives youth an in-depth look at the beef industry |

Winter Cattle Journal 2019: Nebraska Symposium gives youth an in-depth look at the beef industry

Participants at this year’s NYBLS identify different cuts of meat. Photo by Kortni Burnett.

Youth from Nebraska and Kentucky are getting an intensive education about beef. 

For 15 years, students have gathered in Lincoln, Neb. to learn more about the beef industry and test their own skills, as well as network with others with similar interests.  

The annual Nebraska Youth Beef Leadership Symposium (NYBLS), a three-day program held each November, is designed to teach high school students about the beef industry, its career opportunities, current issues, and to develop communication and leadership skills. 

To be chosen, students must fill out an application and write a 1,000 word essay. Last year, forty students were selected. 

For two and a half days in Lincoln, they participated in the culinary challenge track. They learned from professors, participated in a carcass breakdown demo, toured a feed lot, and were given a culinary project. In groups, students were assigned a cut of beef: the flat iron steak, ground beef, or the shoulder clod. After learning about marinades, palatability, tenderness, spices and flavors, and working with Chef John Kennedy from Omaha Steaks, students were to come up with a new retail product and market it to a fictitious restaurant. They had to figure a marketing strategy, price points, and make and present the dish to judges.  

Last year, the winning group made a Japanese dish. Their dish, made with the shoulder clod, which is a tough piece of meat, was as tender as steak, said Alli Raymond, admissions coordinator for the Department of Animal Science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and one of the volunteers who organizes NYBLS.  

NYBLS has a partnership with the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association, and each year, Kentucky students attend the symposium. Their requirements include an interview process for applicants. Last year, eight Kentucky youth were in attendance.
One of those students, J.W. Cox, from Flemingsburg, Kent., about an hour northeast of Lexington, was a participant. The 17-year-old enjoyed connecting with all kinds of different people, he said, and also enjoyed cooking and marketing the food item. His group designed and cooked their dish, named the “Cornhusker Boat,” a flatbread with a layer of ranch dressing, cheese, and a marinated chopped flat iron steak. Then the loaded flatbread was cut into triangles and served. 

His team won fourth place with their dish.  

Cox found many similarities in the beef industry between Nebraska and Kentucky. But one of the differences was geography and climate. “Nebraska has a lot more flatland, and it takes more acres per head (to feed a cow/calf pair) than it does for us in Kentucky. Our grasses and seasons are significantly different.” 

The high school senior has a herd of 25 registered Herefords and ten registered black Angus and has shown and fitted cattle at major livestock shows across the nation. He is a member of the National Junior Hereford Association and the Angus Association, has a 4.0 GPA and will attend either Oklahoma State University or Colorado State University this fall. He plans to major in animal science and pre-veterinary medicine and go on to veterinary school. He’d like to do embryology work after college. 

He highly recommends others attend the symposium. “Without a doubt,” he said. “It was a great experience. I’m one of those people who believes no matter how much you think you know, you can never learn too much.” 

TaraLee Hudson was one of the Nebraska attendees at the symposium.  

It’s the second time for the Belvidere, Neb. youth to attend. She loves going because “it’s a great opportunity to strengthen your qualities and communication skills in the beef industry. And you meet new people, make new friends and see old friends.” 

The 17-year-old was part of the third-place team, who created an Asian-inspired rice bowl with the flat iron steak. The dish included rice, coleslaw and the marinated flat iron, with sweet potato curls on the side.  

Hudson has thirteen registered Angus in her herd, shows cattle, and is a member of the Nebraska Junior Angus Association. She has a 4.0 GPA and hopes to become an agricultural lobbyist after college. “I really have an interest in government and politics,” she said. She will major in animal science with a minor in economics and, if she attends the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, she’d like to work toward a beef industry scholar minor with an emphasis on policy.  

NYBLS costs $75 for each student, which includes two nights of hotel and all food. The extra expense is picked up by sponsors, who include the Nebraska Cattlemen Foundation, Cargill Corn Milling, the Nebraska Beef Council, the Nebraska Corn Board, and the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association. The planning committee members, who are all volunteers, include Raymond; Dr. Bryan Reiling, Associate Professor of Animal Science at UNL; Dr. Gary Sullivan, Associate Professor of Animal Science, UNL; Ashley Benes, Nebraska Extension Educator; and Cole Meador, Nebraska Extension Associate. 

The symposium is a way to broaden horizons for its participants, Raymond said, and grow the beef industry through young people. “Nebraska is the beef state and it’s our largest industry. There are a lot of people passionate about the industry and a lot of job opportunities in the industry. We see it as an opportunity to educate students about the industry.” 

The volunteers who host the event know it’s worth the effort. “Every year, we think about all the work that goes into it. But every year we are reminded of why we do it. There are always students who come back and say, this is a tremendous program and you have completely changed the trajectory of my career. They love it.” 

The UNL Dept. of Animal Science and Nebraska Extension also hosts a Nebraska Youth Pork Conference, similar to NYBLS, in the spring.


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