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National 4-H Poultry & Egg Conference

Neil Jones, 15, Batesburg, South Carolina turns his chicken at the 1978 National 4-H Poultry and Egg Conference held in Louisville, Kentucky. Neil won the chicken barbecue contest over 12 other contestants. (from Winter 1978-79 National 4-H Council Quarterly)

The National 4-H Poultry and Egg Conference continues to be held at the North American International Livestock Exposition (NAILE) in Louisville, Kentucky. This is the world's largest all-breed, purebred livestock exposition.

The National Conference replaced what was known as the Interstate Invitational 4-H Poultry Judging Contest which started in 1929, running annually through 1964.

Hence, this 4-H event - National 4-H Poultry & Egg Conference - in one form or another, has been operating for well over 80 years, although it was not held during the war years of 1942-1946).

The 4-H Poultry Judging Contest started in 1965 with both team and individual winners. A small article in the Fall 1969 National 4-H Service Committee COMMENTS states: "Four-man teams from 16 states will be in Chicago, Nov. 29, to participate in the National 4-H Poultry Judging Contest. The contest is conducted by the Cooperative Extension Service and is sponsored by the American Poultry and Hatchery Federation and other poultry businesses. Individual and team winners will be announced at a recognition banquet Saturday evening. In addition to participating in the judging event, 4-H'ers and their coaches will tour Chicago and visit with fellow 4-H members arriving for the 48th National 4-H Congress."

The National 4-H Poultry & Egg Conference moved from Chicago to Louisville, Kentucky in either 1976 or 1977. A short notice in the Fall 1978 issue of the National 4-H Council COURIER newsletter states that "The 1978 National 4-H Poultry and Egg Conference will be held in Louisville, Kentucky, November 15-16 in conjunction with the 5th Annual North American International Livestock Exposition. The conference, conducted by the Cooperative Extension Service, will feature competition in poultry judging, barbecue and egg preparation. The awards and special events are being provided by the Hubbard Farms Charitable Foundation, Kentucky Fried Chicken, World's Poultry Science Association (USA Branch), American Egg Board and other friends within the poultry industry."

Participants from 21 states competed in various events at the 1978 Conference making judging day a hectic one. Christine Chesson of Belle City, Louisiana scored first in egg-preparation and received a plaque, a wristwatch and a $100 check from the American Egg Board. Neil Jones, a 15-year-old from Batesburg, South Carolina placed first in the chicken barbecue contest, receiving a trophy and a wristwatch for his efforts. Neil scored 229 out of a possible 245 points to win out over 12 other contestants. Scoring first in the poultry judging competition was a team of five 4-H'ers from South Carolina. Top individual performances in this division were turned in by Jeff Fortenberry, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, high individual judge, high in production and high in market poultry, and Phillip Parsons, Ruby, South Carolina, high in market eggs.

The following year, 1979, a new turkey barbecuing contest was offered with six states participating and a Louisiana 4-H'er earning top honors.

The 1980 Poultry and Egg Conference (November 20), saw 21 states competing in poultry judging while 14 states were involved in egg preparation competition. Illinois scored highest in poultry judging and an Alabama 4-H member took first place in egg preparation. Hubbard Farms Charitable Foundation was a major sponsor of the event.

The recorded history of the annual winners for the various events can be found on the website:

These annual records include: National Champions, Avian Bowl Results, Chicken Barbecue Results, Turkey Barbecue Results, Egg Preparation Demonstration Results and Poultry Judging Results.

The AVIAN BOWL is a double elimination contest for state teams patterned after other knowledge bowls. Constants must have a comprehensive knowledge of subject matter for several species of poultry, food safety, physiology, nutrition, eggs, and related subjects.

The CHICKEN and TURKEY BARBECUE contests involve skills in barbecuing, preparation of a product, and a presentation that demonstrates knowledge of the subject.

The EGG PREPARATION DEMONSTRATION contest requires contestants to prepare an egg dish, demonstrate their presentation skills, and incorporate knowledge of the egg industry, food safety, egg quality, and nutrition into their presentation.

The POULTRY JUDGING contest teaches participants to make decisions, use reasoning skills, and to communicate decisions.

Junior Poultry and Egg Fact-Finding Conference

Additionally, there was a Junior Poultry and Egg Fact-Finding Conference in Kansas City, Missouri - usually every February - which started in 1954. A short piece in the March 1963 National Committee COMMENTS states, "career information had an important place on the program of the 10th Junior Poultry and Egg Fact-Finding Conference in Kansas City, Missouri, February 15-17. Arranged by a steering committee of 4-H and vo-ag representatives, the sessions emphasized opportunities in the poultry industry and efficient methods of producing, processing and marketing poultry and eggs. At the same time delegates had a chance to share information with poultry industry representatives attending the Institute of American Poultry Industries' Fact Finding Conference for Business.

"This year's conference drew 73 delegates from 22 states. A maximum of eight young people - four 4-H members and four vo-ag students from each state - may attend, and the steering committee highly recommends participation by additional states next year. The Institute of American Poultry Industries has offered to contact their industry members for financial support in states showing an interest in sending delegates to the 11th junior conference scheduled for February 14-16, 1964."

The 1967 conference drew more than 100 young poultrymen from 28 states to Kansas City. The junior delegates in their own fact finding clinic discussed broiler merchandising, genetics, economics and viewed demonstrations. Cooperating on the event were the Institute of American Poultry Industries, Cooperative Extension Service, Vocational Agricultural branch of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, and the National 4-H Service Committee.

It is believed that this Fact-Finding Conference event did not include any type of actual poultry or egg judging, nor is it clear as to when the event went out of existence. Delegates did give demonstrations during the conference although it is not known whether or not they were judged competitively. For many years during the 1960s and early 70's the staff from the Information Department of the National 4-H Service Committee went to Kansas City and handled the publicity/media coverage for the event.

Contemporary History

The objectives of the National 4-H Poultry & Egg Conference today is to recognize 4-H members who have excelled in their state 4-H poultry learning activities. The overall objective is to offer national level activities and contests designed to introduce participants to poultry and the poultry industry.

Major partners in sponsoring the National 4-H Poultry & Egg Conference include the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, Poultry Science Association, National 4-H Council, and the University of Kentucky Poultry Extension.

The National Poultry & Egg Conference is held annually the Wednesday and Thursday the week before Thanksgiving. The Conference continues to be a scheduled event of the North American International Livestock Exposition (NAILE) in Louisville, Kentucky.

For additional information on the current contests, programs and other events at the Conference, visit the website:

Rules and regulations for the Poultry Egg Conference contests can also be found on the NAILE website at:

Compiled by National 4-H History Preservation Team.

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