Contrary to popular belief, cheese should be left covered and outside of the refrigerator for the best taste.
That's why Lincoln University Agricultural and Environmental Sciences department head Adrian Andrei set out 15 popular cheeses at 6 a.m. Tuesday to perfect the flavor.
The samples allowed more than 100 area FFA students to test their knowledge by identifying the food products.
The students had an hour to complete the tasting portion of the test at Lorenzo Green South Campus. They opened containers of milk, each which had been safely-tainted by staff, and inhaled deep before taking a sip. Some products contained garlic and salt or tasted more bitter or acidic than they should.
Some students frowned when they came across an unpleasant taste.
"If they end up working in the dairy industry, the business is based on milk fat," Andrei said. "If you don't feed your cows right or — your cows eat the wrong kind of food, that taste will end up in the milk."
More than 900 students spread all over the campus to participate in career development events in dairy foods, livestock, florticulture and other areas. For 37 years, the university has held the competitions on their campus. Community volunteers and professionals come to judge the students. They are judged on written and oral exams throughout the day.
"They're not all farm kids," Andrei said. "These are urban and suburban kids who are interested in food."
He added these experiences help students recognize the quality of products.
Chairperson Amy Bax said the competitions are a great experience for the students and a chance for them to demonstrate what they have been practicing within their high schools.
"This is a big thing," Bax said. "We have (almost) 1,000 kids representing 42 schools in Missouri coming to Jefferson City."
Russellville High School freshman Angel McKinnon said she was excited to participate in the test.
"Each time I've done these I've gone up more," McKinnon said. "My goal is to keep moving up and forward."
She said the club plays a big part in her connecting to people with similar interests.
Erin Carl and Laura Apperson helped lead the dairy food test.
Jamestown senior Jarrett Gorman has been in the organization for three years. Prior to the tests, he worked with Carl and Apperson on cheese and milk testing weekly.
He said FFA has helped him prepare for his future. The next step is to prepare for district competitions in April.
"These contest in FFA have really helped me with my speaking skills," Gorman said.
At the livestock competition, on George Washington Carver Research Farm, students judged hogs, ewe, cows and goats.
Apperson said she hopes students come out of this better consumers who make educated decisions when purchasing products.