For almost 100 years, many colleges and universities have sent teams of dairy science students to participate in the annual Collegiate Dairy Products Evaluation Contest. The contest initially was designed to identify quality defects in dairy products throughout the country so they could be corrected. It expanded from local to regional competitions over the years until a national contest was started to recognize those students and dairy product judging teams that had mastered the ability to identify high quality dairy products. This allowed students to showcase their evaluation skills and prepare for careers in the dairy industry.
This year's contest is scheduled to be held October 31 at the Kraft Foods Research and Development Center in Glenview, Ill. Unfortunately, the teams have lost their travel funding due to the economic downturn, and the sponsoring organizations have turned to IDFA, its members and others in the dairy industry to help fund the program. The contest is sponsored by the National Dairy Shrine and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Marketing Service, with support from the American Dairy Science Association.
"Collegiate evaluation contests provide an opportunity for the student to grow and develop even more confidence and skills than coursework alone," said David Selner, executive vice president of the National Dairy Shrine. "The Contest also provides an excellent networking system between students and with the professionals who volunteer their time to help with the contest."
It costs approximately $5,000 to cover travel and accommodations for each team, and 25 teams are expected to participate this year. Members can choose to sponsor an individual team or make a contribution through the National Dairy Shrine. To sponsor a team, contact Brian Fields, IDFA regulatory and scientific affairs assistant, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Send contributions to: Dr. David Selner, National Dairy Shrine, P.O. Box 1, Maribel, WI 54227. ATTN: Collegiate Dairy Product Evaluation Contest.
"These are the future leaders of the dairy industry," said Allen Sayler, IDFA vice president of regulatory affairs and international standards. "Recognizing this, we have a responsibility to support this activity to allow students to polish skills needed in the dairy processing industry."
To support the financial need, IDFA is funding five scholarships, totaling $2,000, for contest participants. IDFA also will offer the students and their coaches complimentary registration for Worldwide Food Expo 2009, which will be held October 28-31 at the McCormick Center in Chicago, not far from Kraft's Glenview facility.
Established in 1916 by several universities, the Collegiate Dairy Product Evaluation Contest allows each participating team to evaluate prepared samples of cheddar cheese, milk, butter, yogurt, cottage cheese and ice cream to identify any potential defects in flavor, appearance and texture. These defects can affect quality of the product. Dairy science professors developed a standardized set of defects for training purposes, and undergraduate and graduate students in dairy science are trained to identify these defects.
"I believe that getting involved with the Collegiate Dairy Products Evaluation Contest was one of the smartest things I did to prepare for a career in dairy foods," said Charlsia Fortner, agricultural marketing specialist for USDA and superintendent of the Collegiate Dairy Products Evaluation Contest. "I gained the ability to critically and confidently evaluate products, and this skill is still of great value to me in my career many years later."
Contest rosters from past years read like a "who's who" in the dairy field. Many are industry leaders who have excelled at teaching, writing textbooks, performing groundbreaking research and shaping successful businesses.
"Many of the dairy industry leaders got their first introduction to the science of milk and dairy products through dairy products judging and it remains an important avenue to help identify and nurture future leaders of the dairy industry," said Phillip Tong, ADSA president.
For more details, contact Fortner at (202) 720-9383 or Selner at (920) 863-6333.