By M. Scott Morris
It’s not Kayla Neal’s responsibility to create more understanding between human beings and cows.
“No,” she said. “That’s not it.”
In June, she was named Mississippi Beef Ambassador by the Mississippi Beef Council. It’s her job to spread the benefits of eating beef and to share recipes.
Those are things cows probably couldn’t endorse.
“I can still eat chicken,” the 17-year-old Auburn community resident said.
But steak is her favorite, especially ribeyes.
Neal was selected as an ambassador based on her 4-H involvement, her academic work at Mooreville High School and her interview skills.
Those interview skills will be put to the test in September, when she’ll travel to Denver, Colorado, to compete with kids from about 20 other states to become National Beef Ambassador.
“You have to tell them your knowledge of beef,” Neal said.
The national title comes with scholarship money that Neal would like to spend at Mississippi State University, where she hopes to study veterinary medicine.
“When I become a vet, I want to work with all animals, even the crazy ones, like – I don’t know – lions or something,” she said.
To prepare for the career, she works at Tupelo Veterinary Hospital.
“I do a lot of kennel work. I take care of the animals. I give them their medication,” she said. “I also hold the animals during their exams.”
She has her own personal barnyard at home that requires care and feeding.
“One time, our neighbors had goats and I wanted goats so bad. I talked my mom into it and got some, and it sort of started from there,” Neal said. “Now, I’ve got all types of animals. I’ve got goats, sheep, donkeys, ponies, pigs, rabbits. I’ve even had a pet opossum.”
She’s shown cows with her sister in the past, but admitted she has plenty of studying to do to increase her beef knowledge by September.
It also might be worth her time to learn how to work a barbecue grill, something her mom usually handles.
“I never have, but I’ve seen her do it,” Neal said. “I’m sure I could do it.”
Her Mississippi Beef Ambassador duties will include talking to Boys & Girls Clubs, and she’ll probably visit classrooms when school’s back in session.
She’s especially looking forward to Aug. 17, when she’ll travel to Starkville, home of her beloved Mississippi State Bulldogs.
“I’ll get to feed the football team steak,” Neal said. “That’s going to be great.”
Members of the team don’t have to worry about Neal’s lack of training behind a grill. The cooking will be done by members of the Mississippi Beef Council and the Mississippi Cattleman’s Association.