Youth from three states visited the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus to participate in the 18th annual Nebraska Youth Beef Leadership Symposium on Dec. 2-4. 

The event introduces participating high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors to career opportunities and current issues in the beef industry, in addition to offering education and practice in leadership skills.

Speakers from the university and representatives from the Nebraska Beef Council, Nebraska Cattlemen, and producers educated attendees about all aspects of the industry from farm to fork. Students from Nebraska, Kansas, and Kentucky made up the group of 45 participants, increasing the total attendance to 725 since the event began in 2004. 

“No matter what your interests are, there is a career for you in the industry,” said Alli Raymond, Animal Science Recruitment Coordinator.

Day 1 featured an overview of the beef industry by Jim MacDonald, professor of ruminant nutrition, followed by a demonstration on the breakdown of a carcass by Michaella Fevold, professor of practice in meat science.

Sessions about beef palatability and flavor followed by Chris Calkins, emeritus professor of meat science, and Gary Sullivan, associate professor of meat science. Mitch Rippe of the Nebraska Beef Council spoke about the role of beef in a healthy diet.

Ruth Woiwode, assistant professor and extension animal behavior and well-being specialist, finished the afternoon with a session about animal care and welfare. Following a networking dinner with beef industry representatives and a keynote by Tom Field, Jacy Schafer of Nebraska Cattlemen spoke to the group to close out the day. 

Adam Wegner of the Nebraska Beef Council kicked off day 2 with a session about beef marketing, followed by a session about food safety and a session with professional chef John Kennedy.

Group project development led to lunch, which was followed by information from Sue Ellen Pegg of the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources and a campus scavenger hunt. Day 2 was closed with an introductory session on careers in the industry by Blaine French, assistant professor of practice of livestock evaluation and youth programs, and Ashley Benes, Nebraska 4-H youth development coordinator, followed by rotating sessions about marketing, product development, and bridging research to the education of consumers. 

The final day focused on products developed by the groups. Each group presented its product and marketing plan and received feedback from a panel of judges. 

Eight participants were awarded $500 CASNR scholarships, including Whitley Rut (Arthur), Alexa Carter (Rising City), Jacie Wolfinger (Lexington) Mollie Webb (Glasgow), Austin Black (Blair), Lilee Chevalier (Bennet), Spencer Walahowski (Overton), and Bethany Nichols (Bridgeport). 

“Nebraska is known as the beef state, and there are a lot of passionate people about the industry in this state,” Raymond said. “The future of the beef industry is in good hands with the youth that we’ve seen come through this program over the years.” 

The NYBLS Planning Committee team members consisted of Ashley Benes, Blaine French, Alli Raymond, Bryan Reiling and Gary Sullivan. 

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